Archive for Korean Horror

Halloween Endurance Test: the Uninvited (2009)

Posted in 2011, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2011 by shenanitim

Charles and Thomas Guard’s the Uninvited starts off on a good foot. Its title sequence is nothing but wisps of flame floating in the air. Transitioning to a shot of a campfire; one with the darkest blacks I’ve seen in awhile. Granted, watching the cartoony Leprechaun series probably has something to with my newfound love for Daniel Landin’s cinematography, but that doesn’t change the fact that lights are unbelievably light here, and the darks are actually dense and black.

The story centers around the two Rydell sisters: Anna (Emily Browning) and Alex (Arielle Kebbel); whose mother died in a mystery boathouse fire that no one remembers. Anna is the innocent one who goes off to therapy. Alex is the cynic, who believes their mother’s ex-nurse, and father’s current girlfriend, was up to devilry before the mother died.

While the girls are sneaking around town, trying to figure out the real story, we’re left trying to figure out why these girls don’t have cell phones. Seriously. They’re driving around town in a BMW convertible, Alex is sneaking out at night drinking and cavorting, yet neither sister has a cell phone?

Maybe I’m just too cynical, but with all the signs pointing to Rachel Summers (Elizabeth Banks), the girlfriend, I’m inclined to believe Anna’s behind the murders. She is, after all, the one with the established history of mental history. She also has the slash marks across the wrists; not to mention the fact she’s constantly “seeing” dead people.

I don’t know why Asian horror movies are fixated on ghosts (the Uninvited is originally Korean, the Ring was Japanese). But every one of these modern retreads of Asian movies always involves children ghosts who dress as if they’re Puritans. It’s a dead giveaway for revealing the country/culture of origin.

I assume these Puritanical children have some kind of symbolic meaning in Asia that’s lost on us here in the States. Sort of like the reindeer attack in the Ring 2 which, according to the commentary, carries significant weight in Japan; where reindeers are viewed as sacred creatures. This significance is somewhat lost when the attacks occur in rural Washington to Naomi Watts.

The ending is also misplayed, with the Guard brothers using the usual “reshoot all the key scenes again” trick. Only this time said scenes contain the correct characters, in case you missed the swerve that wraps up the story.

I’d have preferred instead that key background scenes came to light. Such as Anna’s relationship with Mildred Kemp. Why does Anna keep seeing Mildred’s children? (Besides the obvious reason, of course.) Also significant is the personality shift at the end between the theatrical ending versus the original ending.

In the original ending, the killer is played very dark, and also very independent. Whereas, with the theatrical ending, the killer remains a pawn barely in control of what she’s doing. The writers say on the DVD that they made these changes to bring closure to the original Korean story. Which they do, as I don’t remember any hanging story threads.

I still can’t figure out how the title, the Uninvited, plays into it though. It makes so much more sense as A Tale of Two Sisters.

Halloween Endurance Test: the Host (2006)

Posted in 2010, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , on October 31, 2010 by shenanitim

I’ve been on the fence about whether to include this film or not. I’ve heard glowing reviews from “my converts.” The two people: my brother (who bought me this copy) and my best friend, had, growing up, to be convinced of the merits of bad movies.

Neither of them would believe me on just how awesome Escape from New York is until I forced my brother to watch a not-edited-for-television version. My best friend only watched comedies and horrid action movies. (He had a Last Action Hero poster on his wall for way too long.) It wouldn’t be until “the incident” with him that our distinct cinematic tastes would start to converge. This film, however, made me wonder what kind of monster(s) had I created?

I think, here, it’s all the CGI that ruins it for me. I understand why, if one were to make a modern-day monster movie, they utilized CGI. This understanding does not bring acceptance though. Sure the two-headed mutant-boy from the Funhouse wasn’t really scary. Even in the moment it was hard to buy into him. His murderous father/keeper was totally believable; even if he was only a Greek-looking carny.

I’ve gone on numerous times about the visual lameness of CGI blood (here and here). It just doesn’t look real. Compounding the issue here is the fact that barely anyone dies in the movie. During the monster’s first riverside rampage, only a handful of people get eaten.

The film’s main drive: a drunken, layabout father’s search for his missing daughter loses its appeal since you never truly believe that the girl is dead. She’s just missing. She doesn’t even spend the movie in the belly of the beast! Instead camping out in a modern version of Attack of the Giant Leeches air-filled, underwater caves.

In fact, there’s little difference between the two films. Instead of an army of giant leeches, there’s just one giant monster of indeterminate origins. Rather then deny the monster, in the Host, the government does believe in it, but are ineffectual in containing it. This film is also twice as long as the original. Equalling, for you, the reader/viewer, twice as many topical references that’ll make no sense in 10-20 years.

Most damning is the entire extraneous government subplot, which drags on for 45+ minutes before the final insult; there’s no virus. Making the subplot worthless except for a few “laughs” (if you want to call them that) provided by the Korean version of Get a Life‘s Chris Peterson.

Not to mention they spend an hour looking for the monster. Only to have said monster show up at a demonstration in the end. Meaning any editor, good or bad, could/would/should have cut out all the extra fluff. Just because you can shoot 80 minutes of horrid, unfunny subplots doesn’t mean you should.

A monster movie for people who don’t understand monster movies.

Halloween Endurance Test: Save the Green Planet! (2003)

Posted in 2010, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , on October 4, 2010 by shenanitim

This South Korean film runs highly touted in my circle of (dead) friends. Sold on the fact that it is “torture porn;” a genre all my friends (alive and dead!) agree suits me just fine. The story is about a deranged factory worker who’s come to believe that certain members of the population are aliens. And thus it’s his job to capture and a.) determine whether they’re extraterrestrial, and b.) extract as much information about their plot as he can.

The film is agreeable, but certainly not due to its blood content. (Which, by Dead Alive standards, is rather slim.) It works because you’re never quite sure what you’re watching. Is it a horror/sci-fi send up? There’s plenty of winks to the audience to make you think so. But right as you become confident that it is a comedy, it’ll hit you with something grotesque.

Case in point: early on after the kidnapping, you’re treated to a exposition about the aliens’ powers. They’re quite resilient to pain. They communicate through their telepathic hair follicles. They can control you through said follicles.

While all this is being explained you’re treated to glimpses of the narrator’s notes; all comically drawn. This sets a tone that is immediately contradicted by the next sequence, where they use sand paper to scrape off the top layer of the alien’s feet. So they can apply Menthol rub to weaken the alien’s immune system.

So if you enjoy horror films with wildly varying tones, this one’s for you. Perhaps the most gruesome part is the end: when the torture victim tricks his assailant into murdering his own mother. You’ll actually feel bad for the torturer!

Not the easiest film to find, but well worth the trouble.

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