In these so-called post-modern times in contemporary art and media, which extol ostensibly non-judgemental ambiguity both ethical and narrative, there is a hunger for full-blooded, ferocious art that does not shy away from meaty issues of spiritual corruption, of right and wrong. No writer answers this need so perfectly and passionately as William Shakespeare. While the rest of the world can take him totally for granted and can afford to deconstruct and casualise him, he is barely heard of in Thailand, a country that is actually living through Shakespearean times.

This “Shakespearean horror movie”, a tale of politics and black magic, translated into Thai directly and exactly from ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’, with some cinematic and Thai cultural adaptations , takes place in two parallel worlds: inside the theatre, the world of the play about the ambitious and bloody general who becomes king through murder, and the ‘outside world’ in the contemporary lives of a non-specific country’s superstitious, megalomaniacal and murderous dictator, known only as ‘Dear Leader’, and his scary high society wife. Events in the twin worlds mirror and soon bleed into each other until they catastrophically collide, when the players must pay dearly for staging such a play in a society ruled by such a man.

The horror of Shakespeare Must Die lies not only in the obvious horror movie elements as the supernatural antics of the ghosts and the three witches, whose prophecies precipitate Macbeth’s rise and fall. The true horror here is indivisible from the tragedy of a man and his ‘fiend-like’ wife who had everything in their love, but whose limitless ambition causes them to lose it all—each other, their lives, their very soul, to their own dark side. The tragedy and the horror come from the fact that the hero and heroine are also the villain and villainess, their own as well as their country’s worst enemies.

In the world of the theatre, the tragedy ends with their deaths, but in the real world of the film, the tragedy begins as Dear Leader’s fanatical followers burst into the playhouse and, enraged by this perceived affront to their idol, massacre everyone present. Amidst sounds of cheering, the play’s director is hanged; Shakespeare must die because art cannot be allowed to fulfill its mission to challenge fear and reveal the truth, thereby undermining the foundations of tyrannical power.