Vietnamese Horror Story (Netflix, 2022)
As I’m now living in Vietnam, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to review the 2022 Netflix series, “Vietnamese Horror Story.” Is it Southeast Asia’s answer to the US’ “American Horror Story”? Perhaps.
I’m watching Netflix here in Vietnam in 2022, but you might need a VPN to access this one. It may seem like a lot of trouble, but Asian horror movies are a lot of fun! To date, I’ve reviewed Thai, Korean, Malaysian, Indian, Japanese, and other international horror movies, so check those out next (PS — the Thai ones are the best of the bunch).
Vietnamese horror films are notoriously bad. That’s not just me saying that as an American expat living here. The locals are ready to joke about how tacky they are, too.
With that in mind, I turned on “Vietnamese Horror Story” (2022) with low expectations. Unsurprisingly, it was tacky. But to my pleasant wonderment, it also scared the holy hell out of me.
Episode 1 is entitled, “The Sugarcane Juice Lady.”
Vietnamese Horror Story 2022 Ep. 1 “The Sugarcane Juice Lady”
The Mystery of the Sugarcane Juice Lady – The Real Life Story
It might help if you knew about the real sugarcane juice lady. She’s called “cô mía” (cô is a pronoun you use to call an older female, and mía is short for “nước mía,” or sugarcane juice). Nước mía carts are all over the place in Vietnam, so the sugarcane juice lady’s face is ubiquitous.
Other than that, the sugarcane juice lady is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Who created her? Where did she come from? Nobody knows. For more on the mystery of cô mía, check out this article from The Saigoneer.
Here’s a quote that about sums it up:
“It’s no wonder that many have dubbed Miss Sugarcane the “Mona Lisa of Vietnam”: it’s the absolute lack of information that lures you in.”Khoi Pham, 2018 (Saigoneer.com)
That much is real.
The Sugarcane Juice Lady Review (No Spoilers)
The writers of “Vietnamese Horror Story” must have wanted to capitalize on the sugarcane juice lady’s mystery and ubiquity. After all, so many good horror movies depend on the unknown.
“The Sugarcane Juice Lady” is about actress Lan Huong. As the story goes, Huong was quite popular — for example, she once drank sugar cane juice in front of a juice cart, and the owner was so pleased that he drew a picture of her on the cart.
Unfortunately, one day, her face was ruined.
Too bad, because any actress will tell you that her face is her bread and butter…
I want to give it a 9/10…but 9/10 is generous. Still, I jumped, literally, in my chair, more than once. And my heart leaped, again, more than once. What better way to judge “The Scare Factor” than by whether or not “Vietnamese Horror Movie” actually scared the shit out of me?
Still, 9/10? That seems high; I don’t want to be seen to be doling out nines like a stoned Taco Bell attendant dropping handfuls of mild sauce in paper takeaway bags. I’d rather you think of me like a middle-aged McDonald’s cashier charging you a dollar for each sauce you request in excess of the first.
Makeup and Special Effects
Fast food metaphors aside, the jump scares were terrifying. The makeup and special effects teams helped with that. It also helped with the creep scare, giving the twists and turns of “Vietnamese Horror Story” such a visceral feeling.
Music and Sound Effects
The music and sound effects helped with the scare factor in some places too. As the story builds, the tension rises. The music swells. The sound effects are alarming. What’s more, the film knows when to shut up. Too much noise can desensitize you, and I think the sound team was aware of that here. All that adds to the creep scare factor.
Where “Vietnamese Horror Story” Loses Points
I’m not going to ruin the ending, okay? But I didn’t like it. The music wasn’t as good; I noticed the tacky acting more; and, sorry, I thought the ending was predictable. Endings are so important. They should be the scariest part of a horror movie, right? So “Vietnamese Horror Movie” loses serious scare factor points here.
Vietnamese Horror Story Movie Review: Final Scare Factor Score
I give “Vietnamese Horror Story” a creep scare factor of 6. It doesn’t drag too long — it’s paced well — and the creepy parts are very creepy.
In terms of actual story, I’m sorry to say that there’s nothing especially surprising about what happens. As we get to the end of the film, events start getting predictable.
Still, overall, I was glad to have watched a Vietnamese horror film, and I do think I’ll give episode 2 of “Vietnamese Horror Story” (2022) a shot as well. I’ll be sure to turn off all the lights in the house when I do.