“They say that money cannot buy happiness. That…is a lie.”
EULLENIA, a Thai miniseries coming soon to Amazon Prime, is a shocking and disturbing psychological thriller that uncovers the sociopathy below the surface of the 1%. Marcus Hammond (Alec Newman) is the Scottish founder and CEO of Eullenia, an ASEAN microfinance bank headquartered in Bangkok. Marcus works hard on his public persona. He quotes Muhammad Ali and the Buddha in conversation. He pontificates on the importance of giving people the financial opportunities needed to lift themselves out of poverty. He claims that his peers consider him a “bleeding heart liberal” whose lofty ideals will ruin him financially. Publicly, Marcus is the poster boy for the moral billionaire, but as the show suggests, that’s never anything but an oxymoron. Because at night, Marcus indulges his more sinister fantasies of power and control by hunting vulnerable young women.
Each of the three episodes has a cold open with a different Eullenia commercial. These ads are just like Marcus himself – vaguely utopian and futuristic but leaving a sinister aftertaste for reasons you can’t completely explain. By the end of the first episode, however, the viewer understands why the hairs stand up on the back of their neck whenever Marcus is onscreen. This episode – titled “Make a Good Deal,” after Marcus’s first rule of business – is a slow and shocking descent into horror, gradually peeling back the layers of Marcus’s pathology until it culminates in a sad, bloody, and horrifyingly orgasmic ritual.
The surprises continue in the next two episodes. Rather than focusing on Marcus’s nightly predations, as I expected, EULLENIA becomes an enthralling revenge story when Marcus encounters someone who sees him for what he truly is. As we learn more about him in his conversations with this character, Marcus becomes even more chilling, and Newman plays him with a fascinating but maddening mix of entitlement and condescension that he masks with faux humanitarianism and bad faith philosophical arguments. He’s the offspring of Mark Zuckerberg and Raymond Lemorne from The Vanishing, with the latter’s cold detachment and transactional view of morality as no more than a cosmic balance sheet.
In addition to being a haunting psychological thriller and a shocking revenge story, EULLENIA is a searing critique of the wealthy white ruling class. When Marcus is accused by a journalist of “economic colonization,” he pretends not to understand what the phrase even means. But Marcus’s whole life revolves around wielding power and control, and his fixation on establishing an Asian empire while playing the role of white savior certainly matches the definition of colonization…and it fits perfectly with his bizarre and disturbing personal life. Stylish overhead shots of the streets of Bangkok underscore Marcus’s belief that he is a god among men, choosing who lives and who dies by his own beneficence. He even tells a character that governments are mere window dressing; the people who actually run the world are billionaires like him, white men who pay legislators to pass the laws they want passed and bribe cops to ignore their misdeeds.
Helping Marcus in that pursuit is his right-hand man Boo (Vithaya Pansringarm), a former police officer who does just about everything for his employer. Boo serves as chef, gardener, janitor, chauffeur, bodyguard, and procurer, approaching the girls that Marcus chooses and convincing them to join his employer for the evening. Boo’s an interesting character, and I wasn’t quite sure what his motives were until Lek (Natchanok Kamonrattananan), one of Marcus’s would-be victims, cuts him down to size as only a teenage girl can: she immediately recognizes that Boo is happy to do all kinds of evil things as long as he maintains proximity to power.
Money can buy almost anything: cars, houses, sex, influence, and maybe even happiness. What it can’t buy you is forgiveness. And EULLENIA makes the pointed argument that a person who reaches billionaire status is more than likely someone who has committed deeds that require, but do not deserve, forgiveness. A compelling mix of psychological horror, revenge fantasy, and biting sociopolitical commentary, EULLENIA shines a light on the people who hold power in this world and reminds them that money can’t always protect them from rightful vengeance.
The first three episodes of EULLENIA will be released on Amazon Prime Video on July 24th, 2020.