Netflix’s Vietnamese film The Guardian (or Thiên Than Ho Menh) is a revenge horror thriller that captures the darkness of the glamour industry. It follows a backup playback singer who takes the help of occult forces and a Kumanthong doll to get fame and the name she thinks she deserves. The tale also envelops the theme of betrayal to state that greed corrupts the kindest of souls and turns them into traitors. Let’s explore further.
‘The Guardian’ Plot Summary
The Guardian’s credits scene pictures a 25-year-old famed pop singer, Lam Phuong, who commits suicide in her house after some perpetrators leak her sexually graphic video on social media platforms. At the time of her death, Phuong was holding her beloved guardian, a Kumanthong doll named Yuki, which invites much speculation.
The news of Phuong’s death spreads like wildfire and reaches a young girl, Nguyen Mai Ly, who used to work as a backup singer on Phuong’s albums. For the initial investigation, Detective Manh approaches Ly and takes her to the police station for a brief interrogation. Ly informs Manh that the police have found some texts on Phuong’s phone. According to the evidence, Ly was with Phuong at the party where she was drugged, raped, and recorded. The police want Ly’s help to catch Phuong’s perpetrators, but Ly tells them that she doesn’t remember anything from that night.
Later, Ly attends Phuong’s funeral, where Phuong’s father, Mr. Tran Ngoc, pleads with Ly to help the police, but Ly walks away. Suddenly, Ly receives a text from an anonymous person who threatens Ly to bury the party’s secret and move on.
Six months later, Ly takes part in a singing competition but loses. However, at the competition, she meets an eerie rich woman, Mrs. Do Thanh Tam, who will change Ly’s life forever. Mrs. Tam observes Ly’s Kumanthong doll and informs her about its summoning, which will bring fortune to Ly’s life. After a bit of hesitation, Ly decides to summon her doll and visit a grand Vietnamese shaman. Ly’s soul binds with her Kumanthong doll (Na), and she becomes an instant star like her idol, Lam Phuong. But every good thing comes with evil, and it is just the beginning of the horrors in Ly’s life.
What happened at the party with Lam Phuong?
After Lam Phuong’s stage concert, Ly met Nguyen Vinh Cuong, the son of a real estate tycoon, and his close friend Ngoc Thien. They tempted Ly by offering her a song that would make her an instant star. Through their smooth talks, the treacherous individuals invited Ly to a party and asked her to bring Phuong.
Ly believed that Cuong would launch her as a musician, and thus, to capitalize on the opportunity, Ly begged Phuong to attend the party. At the party, Cuong and his friends drugged Ly and Phuong. Under its influence, they raped Ly and Phuong and recorded them on video. After the incident, Cuong started blackmailing Phuong because he wanted to make Phuong his slave. However, when Phuong refused to comply with his wishes, Cuong leaked the video to destroy Phuong’s career.
Why did Ly hide the truth about Cuong?
Ly felt guilty for Phuong’s suicide and, at some point, decided to reveal the truth about the party to the police. But at precisely that moment, Cuong sent her a text and blackmailed Ly. At the party, Cuong and his friend recorded Ly on video too. After six months, when Ly became a musical star, Cuong and his friends started blackmailing Ly to come and visit them.
Ly believed that if she told the police or Khanh about these threats, Cuong would leak her video. The footage would taint her image in public, and her musical career would end. She would never be able to realize her dream, and thus, in her greed, Ly decided to bury the truth. The preparators of Phuong roamed freely for six months until finally, they threatened Ly again. This time, Ly believed she had occult powers in the form of her Kumanthong doll (Na) and thus decided to take revenge.
Did The Kumanthong Doll have occult powers? Who Killed Vinh Cuong?
When Cuong started blackmailing Ly again, she sought help from Mrs. Tam. The occult sister arranged the Sam-sat-yam ritual in which Ly’s Kumanthong Doll, Baby Na, received a new sacred demon soul, Roc-sam-long. The shaman bound Ly’s soul with Roc-sam-long to ensure that the infant demon followed Ly’s command. Later, with the help of an enchanted knife, Ly sacrificed an innocent creature and prayed to Demon Baby Na to protect her from Cuong.
The next day, Cuong was brutally murdered, and Ly believed that Baby Na killed him to protect her. Ly wanted to get rid of her Kumanthong Doll, but suddenly she received her exposed picture from an unknown number. Afraid of losing her worldly possessions, Ly sacrificed the picture of Cuong’s friends. The two were found dead in a truck parked in a parking lot.
In the meantime, Ly’s best friend, Huyen, visited Mrs. Tam’s penthouse and found out that her whole persona was a disguise. Huyen suspected that Tam could be a part of the Shady Kumanthong Group. However, before Huyen could investigate further, someone attacked her, and she ended up in the hospital.
Ly confronted Tam, and during the conversation, Tam spilled out Khanh’s name, while Ly was confident that she never revealed his name to Tam. Suspicious of the whole setup, Ly barged into her house and ripped off Baby Na’s head. Inside the doll, Ly found a pinhole camera attached to a microphone recording all her prayers and the pictures she sacrificed. In the end of The Guardian, Khanh visited Ly and told her that he killed Cuong and his friends to avenge his fiancé, Phuong, ‘s death.
Why did Phuong’s family design a ploy?
Nguyen Mai Ly didn’t reveal Cuong’s name partly out of fear and partly out of greed. However, Phuong’s fiance, Khanh, and Phuong’s parents yearned for revenge. Phuong’s father, Mr. Tran Ngoc, asked Ly about the people who leaked the footage, but Ly refused to share any details. Hence, the family orchestrated a grand ploy to get the information from Ly.
Mr. Tran Ngoc organized a musical competition at Ly’s college to lure Ly in. During the competition, Phuong’s long-distant mother, Mrs. Do Thanh Tam, who arrived in town to attend Phuong’s wedding, approached Ly and revealed the magic of a Kumanthong Doll. Ly idolized Phuong and aspired to become a singer like her, and to achieve success; she visited the shaman to summon her own Kumanthong Doll.
Soon after the summoning, Khanh planned an encounter with Ly and offered her a singing opportunity that made Ly’s dream come true. When Ly started trusting Khanh and Baby Na, Khanh sent Ly anonymous blackmail threats to push her to seek help from Tam again. During this time, the shaman, who was Phuong’s uncle, placed a microphone and pinhole camera inside the doll. When Ly put Cuong’s photo in front of the doll, Khanh found the culprit and killed Cuong. He took out Ly’s picture from Cuong’s laptop and sent it to her blackmailer so that she would reveal the other two names. Later, Khanh killed Cuong’s friends and finished his vengeance. The family had also plotted Phuong’s aunt, Ms. Nam, as the maid in Ly’s new house, making Ly believe that the doll held magical powers. In reality, the Kumanthong Doll was really a scam.
‘The Guardian’ Ending, Explained – Did Police Arrest Khanh?
Khanh revealed to Ly that she was his last target, whose death would conclude the revenge. But Ly had a change of heart. She begged Khanh to make one last public confession. In her live video stream, Ly told the viewers that Phuong went to the Cuong party on her insistence. Ly wanted to become famous so badly that she dragged Phuong into a trap. If she hadn’t been so greedy, maybe Phuong would still be alive. In short, Ly blamed herself for Phuong’s death.
After the confession, Khanh changed his mind and decided not to kill Ly. He wanted her to live with remorse that would torment her throughout her life. However, Ly had already had enough. She consistently hallucinated Phuong’s spirit, which traumatized Ly’s peace. In the end of The Guardian, Ly followed Phuong’s ghost towards the railing and jumped off the balcony. Ly died that day, along with her dreams. She paid the price of hiding the truth and dreaming big.
During the triple murder investigation, Detective Manh found traces of blood that belonged to a third person other than Ly. Manh was certain that it belonged to Phuong’s fiance. Throughout the film, Khanh acted like Phuong’s guardian and, from time to time, dropped hints that his soul still belongs to his lover. In the end, Detective Manh arrested Khanh for the three murders.
Huyen lost her best friend, Ly, who hunted fame, name, glamour, and success like a blind and greedy person. Through Ly’s journey, Huyen learned a lesson. By the end of her college years, Huyen became a popular influencer, probably due to the recognition that she might have achieved because of Ly. But Huyen wasn’t Ly. The film ended with Huyen receiving a modeling opportunity from a famous agency. But she refused it because she wanted to focus on her studies.
Victor Vu’s film, The Guardian, gives out an important message. It believes that for every artist, the days of obscurity are his/her best teacher, and one should never forget the lessons learned in them.
The Guardian (or Thiên Than Ho Menh in Vietnamese) is a 2021 Revenge Thriller film directed by Victor Vu. It is streaming on Netflix.