I want to start out by saying that I had to pause this rather good film because I got too excited when I was able to read some of the Korean on the ramyun cup the exorcist was eating. I also enjoyed having to type out that previous sentence.
The Closet [클로젯] is yet another example that South Korea seems to do horror better than anywhere else, and man, does the simplicity of this story get under my skin – the terrifying mysteries of the titular closet, something that everyone has in their home. I’m a sucker for everyday things having a sinister otherworld and, ever since I was stupid enough to read Stephen King’s short story (I can’t read his novels) The Boogieman, as a kid (fuck, even typing that out makes me scared about my bedroom closet, despite the fact that I’ve had a new one put in since then. Maybe the demonic ghosts got upgraded, too.
Speaking of which, some kind of inhuman entity has taken Sang-won (Ha Jung-woo)’s 11-year-old daughter Yi-na (Heo Yool, turning in a fantastically creepy yet reserved performance that many adults couldn’t match), a year after his wife and the girl’s mother died in a car accident that wounded the other two. Since the accident, father and daughter have started to become like strangers to each other. One day, after a heated argument involving a horrifying-looking doll (amid dozens of others in the room), Yi-Na goes missing. Months later, after having tried everything, Sang-won turns to an exorcist (the fun but slightly over-emoting Kim Nam-gil) for help.
So, the story’s pretty linear, and felt like it was just lurching from one scene to another, without much conflict, and feeling like a video game (this task, then this location, etc). And, at just over 90 minutes, this is far too short (even for a Korean movie) for everything that goes on, and yet it starts to drag as it meanders. The first third I’d have given five stars for the atmosphere, the tension, the background, all these things that were being built up, but then the film can’t decide where it wants to go, and it seems that no matter what random threads Sang won pulls at, he still gets answers and the film chugs along to its next stop.
There are some wonderfully effective jump-scares (which normally I hate), and clever photography and editing keeps the viewing experience unpredictable. The scenes involving the exorcist’s ritual were fascinating to watch, and the deadpan humour from the scenes between the two leads were welcome relief to the tension. But the content itself felt ripped from a Hallowe’en episode of a by-the-numbers procedural show rather than something a bit more substantive, and the characters are just flat – in particular, Sang-won seems stone-faced to everything that happens to him; his first encounter with one of ‘The Eyeless’, one of the entities almost makes grave physical contact, but his expression is unchanged. Considering there are scenes establishing that he suffers from (and takes medication for) debilitating panic attacks, this is unrealistic. Even if you saw a wasp, you’d have a stronger reaction than just…nothing. Perhaps that’s why Kim Nam-gil hams it up a bit.
But these are minor grumbles; on balance, I still enjoyed it and, while I probably won’t be rushing to see it again, I can see this doing very well at watch parties or in crowded cinemas. Its pacing, scares, detailed lore, and entities are expertly done – even the music deserves some applause – but I just wish they’d added up to a more memorable film.
Short and mostly sweet, Netflix’s Korean horror short anthology series Goedam seems to be as much of a mixed bag as the Nordic one Bloodride.
There’s not much to say about this since episode one is less than 10 minutes in length, but Crack follows a fairly simple story: a young schoolgirl is haunted by something in a bathroom.
My OCD got chills, so perhaps I’m biased. But why do people sit on a toilet seat knowing that other people have blasted bodily fluids on and around it? Why does she put her hands and FACE on the floor – the gross floor in front of the toilet itself – to see if someone or something else is in the toilet? At that point I would have just given myself up to the ghost as long as I didn’t have to touch anything but alas, my OCD was further triggered by events I shan’t spoil. It’s typical short-film format, though: the scare is always at the end. With Crack, it wasn’t worth the wait for me.
So, I just got back from a trip to Korea. Knowing it was possible to make a day trip from Seoul (2h 25m by express train), I couldn’t resist the opportunity. I angled my tablet towards the window to avoid the mortification of looking like the cringeworthy tourist I was.
This is a better post than ‘sorry for not posting for forever’. At least one person must have known what I was doing, especially as I was wearing a pretty ostentatious Frankenstein hoodie. So here is a badly-edited post containing some utterly pointless photos of an actual KTX train, as used in the movie!
So I guess I kind of had higher hopes for this one; another to add to the pile of movies that never quite lived up to its creepy opening. This South Korean chiller was full of jump-scares that didn’t seem forced or clichéd or tone-destroying (Sinister, I’m looking at you).
Someone Behind You opens with the joyous business of a large family wedding; everyone is happy and jostling about and readiyng themselves and then suddenly, ka-splat: the bride is face down on the floor, blood pouring out of her skull, a moderate amount of people freaking out about it. Only our protagonist, Gai-in (Yoon Jin-Seo) and her younger sister Ga-yeon (Kim So-eun) offer near-blank facial expressions as if they’d just stumbled into a public loo that had old-timey separate hot-cold taps instead of a single mixer one.
And I guess that kind of took me out of the movie a little bit, but I suppose it doesn’t matter, because it turns out that, even though the bride was lying in a paddling-pool-sized volume of blood, she’s still alive. And apparently a trooper, because when Gai-in finds the bride’s younger sister straddling her, it takes a good 40 or so stabs with a huge knife before the bride kicks it. Which at least gives us some proper screams.
From here, the plot goes a bit haywire, with everybody in Gai-in’s life trying to kill either her or each other. It’s just a string of people killing people, with our plucky protagonist sort of aimlessly wandering from perilous situation/potential plot information donor to jump scare and then rinsing and repeating.
There’s evil spirits and cute schoolgirl crushes and splatter-stabs-a-plenty, but I just didn’t care about the characters. Not even in that bare-minimum, “nobody deserves to die”-type caring that’s asked of you by horror movies with underdeveloped characters/fodder. I cared about this curse-ridden family and their extended loved ones about as much as they all seemed to.
The movie was adapted from a manga called Two Will Come by Kyungok Kang, which apparently contained a multigenerational backstory with some supernatural lore. Here, we don’t get much more than “it’s a spirit that possesses people”, without much effort to build up any other atmosphere, and that’s kind of lame. It’s a bit like a Diet Ringu.