Demon Warriors (aka Opapatika) is the Thai equivalent of one of those super-hero team flicks, in which a bunch of disparate personality types are all gathered together to fight a common foe. The difference here is that all of our heroes are Opapatika; superhuman demons who’ve gained their powers through suicide, and, as a result, suffer in some manner specific to their special abilities each time they use them. Certainly not the sort of thing one would expect from Marvel or DC. Definitely what one would expect from the country that gave us Ong Bak and David Carradine in fishnet stockings (what, too soon?).
The film opens with the elderly demon Sadok (played by an actor whose name featured nearly one-hundred consonants in a row) assisting in the suicide of Techit (Leo Putt), a police detective who wishes to join the ranks of the Opapatika. Sadok offers said assistance in exchange for Techit’s help in tracking down four other powerful demons using his own newfound power to read minds and anticipate a person’s next move. Techit is teamed up with Sadok’s human henchman, Thuwachit (Pongpat Wachirabunjong), and the duo (along with Thuwatchit’s seemingly unlimited army of sacrificial soldiers) take to the streets hunting demons. Their targets? Jirat (Somchai Kemglad), the demon gang’s conflicted immortal leader; Aroot (Ray MacDonald), a gentle soul who turns into a ferocious beast when the sun goes down; Ramil (Athip Nana), a daredevil with a demonic beastie bodyguard; and Paison, a guy who…uh…shoots stuff.
Each of the men are drawn to the mysterious Pran (Kemapsorn Sirisukha), a beautiful woman with a dangerous secret, who brings the group together. As Techit learns Sadok’s true motivation for bringing him into the fold, he finds himself aligned with the very men he was hired to hunt down, and this team of damned souls must work together to stop Sadok before it’s too late.
Demon Warriors is a brutally violent action/horror hybrid that is equal parts Ichi the Killer and X-Men, with enough gore for a dozen Saw films and more balletic gunfights and high-flying fisticuffs than a John Woo marathon. The story’s pretentious and silly, and the obvious message (suicide is bad, mkay?) is heavy-handed, but none of that matters a lick when more than three quarters of the film is focused on finding new and exciting ways to make the maximum amount of blood spew forth from a wound. Seriously, I’m talking physics defying splatter effects that would make the folks behind the Bellagio fountain show blush. Arms are torn off, throats are gashed open, and heads are crushed like rotten fruit, all resulting in Old Faithful-like geysers of gore. The action here is wince-inducing, crowd-pleasing stuff that more than makes up for the fact that I couldn’t understand 80% of what was going on, even with the subtitles. It reminded me of a typical night out at the local sushi bar, where Taka, the smiling Japanese sushi guy, tells me long stories in some sort of make-believe language, and I just smile and nod. Keep feeding me sushi, Taka, and I’ll smile and nod ‘til the elevated mercury levels in my blood make me infertile.
The DVD from Magnet/Magnolia features a somewhat grungy 1.78:1 transfer that makes the film look like something straight of the seventies, despite the fact that it’s only a couple of years old. There’s a tremendous amount of grain present here, and digital artifacts galore. I can’t be certain that the source print is any great shakes, but it has to look better than this! The 5.1 English dub track sounds fine, but the dub, itself, is simply atrocious. I could only stand that audio track for about 20 minutes before restarting the film and watching it with the 5.1 Thai track and English subtitles. I found the Thai track a little tinnier and less expressive than the English language track, but I’d rather listen to a panda getting run through a wood chipper than sit through ninety plus minutes of this dub job.
Bonus features are limited to a short (15 minutes) behind-the-scenes featurette, Making Demon Warriors, as well as trailers for other Magnet/Magnolia releases.
If you can overlook the film’s daft plot and the occasional “WTF?” moment, Demon Warriors makes for a bloody good time. The special effects are solid, the gore effects are magnificently over-the-top, and the action sequences and fight scenes are superbly choreographed and executed. The film occasionally gets bogged down in its own metaphysical jibber-jabber, but, before you can even muster a yawn, it comes roaring back at you like a rocket full of crazy on a collision course with funtown. Watch it with someone you love, and then pummel them with their own limbs afterwards. Huzzah!