In her third feature, The Long Walk, Laos’ Mattie Do—the country’s only female filmmaker and only horror director—blends both genre and timelines into one philosophical ghost story.
The film tells the story of a middle-aged hermit (Yannawoutthi Chanthalungsy) who has lived a life of regret following the death of his mother. Accompanied by a silent ghost (Noutnapha Soydara), the man learns that he can be transported to the moment of his mother’s death, some 50 years prior. Here, he can talk to his younger self (Por Silatsa) in hopes of changing the path his life has taken. As he becomes more and more obsessed with the course of the past, his actions begin to have an effect on his present.
The less one knows about the film going in, the more they will be rewarded by this slow-burning story, which first premiered at the Venice Film Festival and then at TIFF in 2019.
The Long Walk almost defies description both in terms of the depth of the story and its overarching genre. It is, above all, a deliberately-paced exploration of grief, time and, most importantly, of letting go. Though Walk is a cinematic ghost story, Do doesn’t bring us spectres to be feared. Instead, these spirit guides are deeply anchored within their earthly setting and are captured in suitable tones of muted greens and browns.
Do herself has emphasized this is more than just “poverty porn”. Born in the U.S. before relocating to Laos, the filmmaker has much to say about the socio-economics of the country and its people through both the literal and the metaphorical hauntings in this story. A lo-fi sci-fi rooted in folkloric horror, the film is set in an indeterminate future, where a modicum of futuristic technology left behind by NGOs exists are part of daily rural life.
While The Long Walk may not offer up traditional ghost story scares, it is nevertheless haunting and the story will likely leave viewers unsettled by it’s very nature.
The Long Walk arrives on VOD March 1.