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KajoPicks: 3 films based on the legend of Mae Nak Phra Khanong

When it comes to Thai folktales, one of the most famous stories is about the spirit of Nak, or Mae Nak Phra Khanong, which means Lady Nak of Phra Khanong.

Even after death, Nak tries to hold her family together. While her intention comes out of love and family loyalty, the villagers around her deem it unacceptable. You’re supposed to stay dead once you die, right?

About the legend of Mae Nak Phra Khanong

So the story goes that there was a beautiful young woman named Nak. Together with her husband Mak, they lived on the banks of Phra Khanong Canal.

Their blissful marriage was interrupted when Mak was called to war while Nak was pregnant.

During the war, Mak got himself wounded. As he was recovering in Bangkok, Nak and their child both died during childbirth.

When Mak returned home, however, he found his wife and child happily waiting for him.

In the meantime, the neighbours tried to warn Mak that he was living with a ghost. Eventually, those who tried to warn him turned up dead.

One day, as Nak was preparing a Thai spicy chilli sauce called nam phrik, one of the limes rolled away and dropped off the porch.

As she reached for it, Mak watched in disbelief as her arm grew and stretched to an unnatural length, opening Mak’s eyes to what she really was – a ghost.

Horrified, Mak left his ghost-wife.

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After this are different accounts of what happened. But fundamentally, Nak ran amok, terrorising the villagers whom she believed caused her husband to leave her.

Regardless of how scary Nak could be, the thought of trying to live among the living due to the undying love for her husband has been romantized many times in popular culture.

Screenshot of Pee Mak (2013) trailer. Credits: Youtube
Here are KajoMag’s picks of horror films based on the legend of Mae Nak Phra Khanong:
1.Nang Nak (1999)

This Thai horror classic is perhaps what made international fans take notice of the Thai movie industry. Additionally, it was the first Thai film to earn 100 million baht at the box office.

In this version of Mae Nak Phra Khanong, Mak was sent to fight in the real-life Siamese-Vietnamese War (1831-1834).

The movie also featured another real-life feature; a famous Buddhist monk named Somdet To (1788-1872).

In Nang Nak, the monk comes to exorcise Nak so that her soul can move on into the after-life.

2.Ghost of Mae Nak (2005)

Inspired by the legend Mae Nak Phra Khanong, this movie is set in modern Bangkok where the life of groom Mak is disturbed by a ghost woman named Mae Nak.

After protecting Mak and his fiancee Nak from a misfortune, Mae Nak now holds the soul of Mak.

Nak on the other hand, Is trying to release her fiance from the grip of Mae Nak.

3.Pee Mak (2013)

Instead of melodrama, Pee Mak (2013) took on a comedic angle of the legend of Mae Nak Phra Khanong.

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This move worked out for the movie maker because it is currently Thailand’s highest grossing film of all time.

The story starts just like the legend with Mak not realizing that he is living with the ghost of his dead wife.

Mak’s four friends however know that Nak is a ghost and go to lengthy ways to tell him, even using a game of charades.

Since it is a horror-comedy film, expect an unconventional ending when watching Pee Mak (2013).

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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