The Maid (2020): Surprising & Bloody
Should you watch the Thai horror movie, The Maid (2020) on Netflix?
I’m going to give a detailed review without spoiling too much of the plot, which is damn good, by the way.
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Thai Horror: The Maid (2020)
The Maid is a horror film that delivers in soundtrack, set and costume design, plot, character, pacing, mystery, and plenty of jump scares.
Thailand’s The Maid Opening Scene
Opening scenes are important because they hook you.
Within the first 5 minutes of this Thai horror film, you already have a good grasp of the premise. By the time they put the title up on the screen – “The Maid” – you already understand the story.
Unfortunately, there are some tacky effects in The Maid’s intro. The whole monkey thing is a little goofy (photo below). Fortunately, however, we never see the little guy again.
Anyway, my point about the monkey is that Thailand is a developing country, and I guess they don’t have a Hollywood budget. So I made a decision early on to grade the special effects on a curve.
And honestly, if you’re able to overlook the low budget effects, I think you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised with The Maid.
So I definitely recommend at least watching past the start of the film.
After the unfortunate monkey business, the story starts off with a maid talking to a therapist about some hallucinations she’s had.
The therapist thinks these hallucinations are just a “manifestation of your fears.”
But we know better.
We came to watch a goddamn Thai horror movie.
We know something supernatural happened to her.
And we know that as the story unfolds, we’re going to find out what.
The Maid (2020) Soundtrack
Audio is so clutch in the horror genre, and Bruno Brugnano‘s soundtrack is everything you’d hope for in a horror movie. It’s low and bassy during the creepy parts. At other times, piano and orchestral sounds move the story and characters forward.
At one point, Joy sings Lady Nid to sleep. The soundtrack mixes in with her lullaby beautifully.
The soundtrack ranges from classical piano to lullaby to straight horror to, yes, upbeat freestyle jazz. And it works.
The Maid (2020) Set Design
The set design was one of my favorite things about The Maid.
The colors and palate in The Maid are thoughtfully chosen. They work with the soundtrack to effectively but subtly evoke mood.
Check it out below. These photos are all from the same scene at the beginning of the movie where the new maid is traveling to the house. It all takes place in under a minute, but there’s so much design mastery to see here.
Just gum? Maybe, but the colors in this scene give you a distinctive feeling, especially combined with the powerful soundtrack.
There’s a sense of delicate beauty here. The gum, the color of Joy’s lipstick and skin juxtaposed with the interior of the car.
She’s got a beautiful, innocent look.
So that’s who she is, right? ‘
Just a beautiful, innocent maid?
The exterior of the car is black. And Chai’s entire outfit is black as he lets her out of the car. Foreshadowing?
One More for the Road
Okay, so all of those pictures above took place in under one minute. But there’s one more picture I want to show you. Look at this. The yellow and blue wallpaper and curtain juxtaposing husband and wife here are stark and evocative. The set designer manages to match the clothes that Uma and Nirach are wearing.
Set design by Nippaporn Wannamok, who is an apparent no-name, by the way, at least as far as Google is concerned. Hope he/she gets more work in the future. Brilliant. Well done.
The Maid: Costume Design
The costume design in Netflix’s The Maid is phenomenal. First of all, Uma’s outfits are always lavish and crazy. I mean, look at this shit:
And the crazy thing is, it’s all in character. These are rich, materialistic people.
And the blue maid’s uniform also quickly becomes iconic. You can quickly identify the maids in the house.
In fact, the costume design is so effective at making colors iconic that you can easily tell who the people are in the pictures that Nid drew.
The Maid: Characters
Well, as scary as the supernatural can be, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as working for this weird English speaking Russian drunk guy who Joy used to work for before, who wanted to touch her butt. And I think he wanted to do other bad stuff to her other body parts too.
Good to know white people have a bad reputation everywhere…
I bring this up because Joy’s character has depth, but also her backstory isn’t overdone. At first, it’s implied with tasteful subtlety. But as the movie goes on, you start to see more and more of her life.
Joy’s a likeable protagonist, despite several personality quirks. For one thing (minor spoiler alert), it’s implied at one point in the movie that she’s kind of taking maid jobs in order to steal. That might be true, and it also might be a lie. But it adds complexity to Joy’s character.
I think it could have been very easy to screw up Joy’s character. But I think it works.
On the one hand, Joy could have been written as a total goody-two-shoes victim type, just an innocent kind of person like we are made to remember when we first see her pulling up in the black car (remember the color palate and the gum?) But that’s so boring, and so overdone.
On the other hand, if Joy had just been there to steal (or for some other nefarious/mysterious purpose), she would have been kind of one-dimensional, too. As a result, we might not have cared very much about her.
However, we have the best of both worlds. The result is a complex character who is both likeable and flawed. Joy is someone who is easy to empathize with.
Thai Horror VS Hollywood
So, are Thai horror movies better than Hollywood?
In fact, all the characters seem to have a level of depth that is often overlooked in Hollywood and other international horror movies. Everyone is morally ambiguous in one way or another, and nothing is cut and dry.
And, just like with Joy’s backstory, all of the character exposition is done tastefully. There’s no info dumps. For example, we don’t even find out anything significant about Uma (the beautiful wife/mom) until about a third of the way into the movie. And when we do, she’s instantly likeable.
The plot thickens and twists more than once, so I’m going to be really careful with what I say next. Okay, so without spoiling anything, I’ll just say Uma’s backstory is, um, really, really interesting.
Is “The Maid” Scary?
It’s not the most terrifying movie you’re ever gonna see. But if you like jump scares, you’re gonna like The Maid. There are a lot of consistently frightening jump scares. They got me every single time.
And, as I mentioned before, the incredible soundtrack really enhanced the fear factor in this film.
The Canary in the Cage
As a final easter egg, there’s a symbolic device used in The Maid about a canary in a cage.
What’s the meaning of the canary in the cage?
Without spoiling, I can only hint that it comes up more than once.
The Maid: Spoilers Ahead
From here on, the tone of this article is going to change somewhat.
I toiled not to spoil the story of The Maid. So I’m not going to ruin the whole thing, even now.
However, I couldn’t end this review without writing two spoilers about the characters. They aren’t huge spoilers, but if you don’t want to ruin it, read this part afterwords.
These points are about character development.
Basically, I think it’s great that Nirach and Uma both have a chance to reconcile in the end.
Uma fails – she tells Joy the same lie.
Nirach succeeds – he’s ready to give up all his money and divorce his wife – but he’s in too deep.
The writers could have just been lazy and killed them both off without any kind of attempt at reconciliation. But the attempt at reconciliation actually makes their deaths more powerful in the end, because they introduce an element of tragedy, where otherwise we might not even care that they died.
Raincoat in The Maid: American Psycho Reference?
While I’m spoiling, one final little easter egg: extra points for the raincoat. If it’s a nod to American Psycho, I love it. That’s one of my favorite horror movies of all time, and these two films have some features in common, especially suspension of disbelief, blood, and killing while giving a speech about music on the radio.
Also, I submit to you for your consideration that 2020’s The Maid has a lot in common with Bon Joon Ho’s 2019 award winning movie, Parasite.
Conclusion: Should I Watch The Maid on Netflix?
It was really hard to write all that without totally spoiling the film. Even in the last section I managed to keep a lot of secrets.
So, what’s my conclusion?
In conclusion, yes, definitely, 2020’s The Maid is definitely worth watching. I loved it. You should definitely check it out. I do hope you’ll give it a try.
And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you make it past the crappy monkey scene at the beginning.