“You’ve already become the hero of our story”
Every now & then a movie comes along which simply blows me away & restores my faith in genre movies. As every genre buff will know too well, for every great movie there are 20 utter stinkers. Hansel & Gretel is one of those movies that demonstrates just how good a movie can be. It is nothing short of genius & could sit proudly & justifiably in my Hall Of Fame.
Eun-su is a salesman & travelling by car to see his mother who is ill. Along the way Eun-su calls his pregnant girlfriend & they get into an argument. As they argue Eun-su’s car hits a rock & he loses control, flipping the car in the crash. Eun-su wakes a few hours later, dazed, in a dark forest. He wanders off to find help but soon collapses again. When he wakes, he sees a girl with a lantern. She tells him her name is Young-hee & guides him to her house in the middle of the wood. There is a sign by the fence which says “the home of happy children” They are met at the door by Young-hee’s parents & her two siblings Man-bok her older brother & Jeong-sun her little sister. Once inside Eun-su begins to notice the parents acting nervously & strangely. He is told he can rest at the house overnight & leave in the morning. Eun-su tries to leave the next day but he gets lost in the forest & as it gets dark is forced to return to the house. As he arrives back Eun-su passes the parents, who inform him they are leaving & ask if he can look after the kids for a short while. The longer he stays in the house the more disturbed Eun-su becomes. The TV plays the same violent cartoon endlessly, even though it isn’t plugged in & he hears noises in the attic. When Eun-su investigates the attic he finds the children’s mother. She tells him that she is not the children’s parent but like Eun-su was brought to the house after her car broke down. She warns Eun-su that the kids are dangerous & not to be trusted. Eun-su tries to leave again but meets Man-bok in the forest, he is accompanied by a lay preacher & his wife whose car has broken down. What is the children’s sinister secret & who is the preacher & what does he want with the children?
Hansel & Gretel is a wonderful movie, it brings to mind classic Tim Buton (circa Edward Scissorhands) & Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) yet in many ways this movie even eclipses those directors & their movies. It is yet another example of why, when it comes to the horror genre the Korean film industry seems to be head & shoulders above every one else. Visually the movie is stunning. The cinematography & set design are superb. The interior of the house looks incredible & the scenes in the forest are, at times breathtaking. The movie is quite long, clocking in at just under two hours. Director Yim-pil Sung takes his time weaving his plot, giving plenty of time for character development. The acting is first-rate, each & every cast member puts in a faultless performance. The acting by the three child actors is staggeringly good with a special mention to Shim-eun Kyung who plays Young-hee. Her performance at the movies’ climax is incredibly emotional & powerful. What Yim-pil Sung has created with Hansel & Gretel is a wonderfully dark adult fairytale. Visually stunning & carefully scripted, it’s a truly a minor masterpiece. It’s a complex movie & not just another “evil children” movie. While the children seem to be the villains of the piece, as the movie draws towards its climax all is not what it seems. If you fail to be moved by this movie then quite frankly you have no soul. I will admit this movie will not appeal to everyone. Anyone looking for endless gore & carnage will be incredibly disappointed. This is not a traditional horror movie. But for anyone looking for something different & intelligent should look no further than this movie.
Are you still sitting here reading this? Go see this movie, I promise you that you won’t be disappointed, instead you will be rewarded with something special. Not that I really need to say it but this film is highly recommended.
“Now I understand why Kang killed all his buddies”
GP 506 is the second feature film from writer/director Kong Su-chang, following his well received debut movie R-Point. I probably should have reviewed R-Point for this site already but despite it being a well made & impressive debut it is also an overly long ghost story & those of you familiar with me & this site will know that I am a less than enthusiastic fan of ghost movies. It is for that reason I haven’t sat down to re watch R-Point for the purposes of a review here. GP 506 is, like R-Point another military horror. This time instead of ghosts we get a mixture of R-Point, The Bunker & The Crazies.
GP506 is an outpost on the border of North & South Korea in the DMZ (demilitarised zone) The guard post itself is a huge concrete structure full of maze like corridors. Each tour of duty lasts for three months & the soldiers are armed with live ammunition at all times. On the 29th May 2007 M.P.s break into GP 506 searching the facility room by room until they find a room full of blooded corpses & one survivor, coated in blood holding an axe. The man is disarmed & placed into custody. Sergeant Noh is called in to investigate what happened at GP 506 & is told he has untill 6am the next day to find out what happened before the army arrives & covers it up. Once at GP 506 Noh informs Lt Bang whose M.P. unit found the man with the axe that he will be assuming command. Noh goes to see the survivor, now in a coma as the doctor is preparing to move him & the bodies of the dead to HQ. He discovers the man was Corporal Kang. Checking the post’s records, Noh realises they are one man short & unaccounted for. The soldier is found hiding in the complex & identified as 1st Lt Yoo, head of GP506. Struggling to understand & piece together what happened at GP506 & running short of time Noh begins to notice strange behaviour in his own men & it soon becomes apparent that they might be dealing with a virus with deadly consequences.
GP506 is a movie I wanted to like. It’s beautifully filmed & takes its time establishing plot & character. Sadly the movie is confused & way too long for its own good. The story of what happened to the original unit at GP506 is told in intermittent flashbacks throughout the film including a couple of important plot twists. These flashbacks are at first very hard to follow. With all the soldiers past & present wearing full camouflaged military fatigues including helmets, filmed in the dark it is very hard to make out who is who & there is no clear sign when the movie moves between timelines making the first hour very hard to follow. Only once the characters are established does this become somewhat easier to follow. The plot itself is actually very simple & didn’t need two hours to tell the story. While I commend Kong Su-chang for taking his time to create atmosphere & tone there were many times during the film I wished the pace would pick up. GP506 doesn’t really seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be. The beginning hints at Park Chan-wook’s Joint Security Area. The middle of the movie hints at Su-chang’s earlier R-Point & ends like a Korean version of The Crazies. The movies climax doesn’t do the film any favours. The origins of the virus & what it is are never explained & the ending feels almost rushed which is surprising for a movie that moves with an almost pedestrian pace. There is also one scene that hints at a zombie style infection which is never followed up & at complete odds with everything else in the movie. Despite this there is a lot to commend in this movie. The setting of GP506 is wonderfully atmospheric & foreboding & the cinematography is excellent. The acting too, is first-rate. Its an ensemble piece & each & every actor puts in a fine performance. For me GP506 is a paradox. It should have been great, it just wasn’t.
GP506 is movie which a lot of people may enjoy. I would certainly advise anyone reading this to watch the movie & make their own mind up. Personally for me this movie just didn’t deliver but as they say, one man’s fish is another man’s poison. Worth a watch if you like slow-moving mysteries.
“I smell like blood”
It burns my eyes! I’m not sure if there are enough negative adjectives in the English language to truly do justice to just how utterly appalling this movie really is. The movie’s poster & advertising campaign proudly boast that the movie is banned in its homeland. I’m guessing that is because Korea has a thriving film industry & doesn’t want to be associated with such an amateurish & inept movie like The Butcher.
The plot for what little of it The Butcher has is set in a large barn. As the movie begins four people are bound & gagged, slumped on the floor with cameras placed on their heads. These cameras are to give us a victims POV of what happens to them (nice idea, awful execution) Soon “the director” arrives with his idiot assistant in tow. They divide the four into two groups, one consisting of a husband & wife, the other two men. The later group is then dragged to another room where from the married couples perspective we hear a chainsaw & lots of screaming. After a few minutes (yet seems like hours) the filmmakers return with a large steel bucket, which has the carved up body parts of the first two victims. The couple is lead into the other room where the “star” of the films is waiting. A big guy wearing a butchers apron & a pig’s head.
Where do I even start with this mess, ok the beginning. The very first shot of the movie is a POV shot of a guy taking a piss up the wall of the barn! Classy eh?! Without doubt The Butcher is the worst example of shaky cam ever. The view from the cameras on the victim’s heads is nauseating, constantly in motion & rarely in focus, its headache inducing. There is zero character development, leaving the film with “bad guys” & “fodder” Even here the movie drops the ball, one of the victims behaves in such a selfish manner that you lose even the slightest shred of empathy you had with his plight & actually want him to meet a nasty end. The acting is… well you can’t even call it acting. The victims scream, a lot. Irritating, eardrum piercing screams (& that is just the guy) The director proves he is a bad guy by swearing a lot & having to deliver some of the worst dialogue this side of an Ed Wood movie. So… is it really that violent it deserved to be banned? Not in the slightest, a few fingers are cut off with the chainsaw. One guy gets raped, a few hammer hits & a couple of stabbings! That’s it! No over the top gorefest, no heave inducing dismemberements, no sadism! This is no Tumbling Doll Of Flesh or Flowers Of Flesh & Blood. Even Hostel had more blood in it! The movie’s ending is dire, perfectly matching everything that went before it. The film has a blessedly short running time, it clocks in at 75 minutes but trust me it feels like hours!The movie’s director Jin-won Kim should be banned from making movies & never be allowed within 20 feet of a camera for the rest of his life.
In closing this movie is one of the worst I have ever seen & is headed straight for my Hall Of Shame. I would have had more fun masturbating with a cheese grater using vinegar as lubricant instead of watching this mess. Avoid this film like you would a dose of herpes!
“Everything has changed”
Bloody Reunion is something rare in Asian horror, it is at heart a slasher movie. This fact alone combined with an interesting film poster piqued my interest in seeing this movie. The movie itself has much more depth than your usual by the numbers slasher but the end result is slightly muddled.
Bloody Reunion is the story of a group of primary school children who return years later to visit their old & now terminally ill teacher Mrs Park, who we learn in a prologue had a deformed baby she kept in the basement & this caused her husband to hang himself. Quite soon it becomes apparent that Mrs Park wasn’t the kindest of teachers to put it mildly & her ex pupils all seem to have simmering feelings of resentment towards her. It’s not long before the former pupils are systematically murdered one by one.
The above synopsis only scratches the surface of the movie. There are several plot twists & a lot of psychological horror that elevate the movie above the usual slasher trappings. The characters are well-developed, each given time to explain their own reasons for hating Mrs Park. One of the women in the group was ridiculed about her weight by Mrs Park & is now obsessed by her own self-image, resorting to endless amounts of cosmetic surgery to try to feel better about herself. Another of the group was an aspiring athlete until his knee was perminatly damaged by a punishment Mrs Park inflicted on him. These elements are the movies strongpoints. It is as the murders start the movie begins to lose its way. There is an obvious attempt at misdirection as to who the murderer is & it fails completely & is blatantly obvious who the culprit is. This would be true if the makers of the movie hadn’t thrown several more plot twists into the film as it approaches its conclusion. The ending itself borrows heavily from a certain classic French horror movie (whose title I obviously can’t give away here) But it fails to tie up all the loose ends & finishes up looking contrived & ill thought-out. it’s the kind of ending that has you thinking WTF? It just doesn’t quite make sense. The final plot twist is comprehensible it just doesn’t logically pan out with the back story. It’s a shame really because this had the potential to be great.
Bloody Reunion is by no means a bad movie, it’s certainly worth an hour & a half of your time & it will entertain. It just could have been so much more if the ending had been presented more coherently.
“Is there such a thing as a man-eating boar?”
Chaw is a Korean monster movie from 2009, very similar in tone to the fantastic The Host. While Chaw isn’t as good a movie as The Host, it is still a hugely enjoyable movie. Having said that, if Spielberg or anyone involved with Jaws watches the first half of this movie, the makers of Chaw could find themselves in court!
The village of Sameri in South Korea prides itself in being “a crimeless village” Police officer Kim is transferred to Sameri just as partially devoured bodies start appearing. It soon becomes apparent that a killer boar is responsible. The village elders are worried these events will put an end to their local fair & stop “the townies” coming there to buy their produce. So they hire a famous hunter to kill the boar. The hunter returns with a dead boar but it soon becomes obvious this isn’t the offending boar. It is then left to Kim, the hunter, a detective, an old hunter & an environmental activist to head into the woods to hunt down the killer boar.
Chaw is just a hugely enjoyable monster movie. While it’s not as good as The Host it still entertains. It does share the same comedic touches as The Host but lacks the humanities that elevate The Host. As I mentioned previously, Chaw shall we say “borrows” heavily from Jaws in the first hour of the movie. This isn’t a bad thing as it allows the story to develop & draw you in. The movie is an ensemble piece & while no one excels the acting is good throughout. The characters are an interesting bunch, although the police chief is a tad too OTT for my tastes, fortunately he is very much a secondary character & isn’t on-screen too much. There is also a very strange woman in the movie who crops up from time to time & appears in a bizarre epilogue. The real star of the film is obviously the boar itself. A mixture of CGI & animatronics it is on the whole impressive. Some of the CGI is a little patchy, especially during the movies climax when the boar is seen in full charge. The movie is light on blood & gore which suits the style & tone of the movie.
There isn’t much more I can say about this movie. It is just a simple old-fashioned monster movie. It sets out to entertain & does just that.
“No please don’t do it inside me”
This review will be short & to the point as I have already wasted enough of my life on this grubby little film & I only write this to hopefully dissuade anyone else from watching it.
The movie begins late at night as two young women get a cab after a nights drinking with some guys. The cab driver then drugs the two girls & takes them to a rundown storage unit. As one of the girls awakens in the darkened unit, she uses a torch to view her surroundings & sees the cab driver raping her friend. Once finished the cab driver tells the woman he has just raped she can have one wish granted. Obviously she asks to be freed. The cabbie then informs her that her wish has to be something she can have in the unit. She eventually asks for some light & the cabbie returns with two halogen lamps on a stand. The next morning he rapes the same girl again, this time she asks to use the bathroom & instead is bought a chamberpot. The cabbie then turns his attention to the other girl, who is raped & then allowed to eat. This cycle of abuse followed by “gift” is continued & the girls start to play along demanding more & more “gifts” until they find themselves vying for the cabbie’s attention.
This movie truly is a crass pile of misogynistic bollocks. A kind of a korean version of Scrapbook. Utterly seedy, grubby & plain nasty. The movie is kind of a throwback to the more extreme pinku movies. The scriptwriter & director obviously have an intense dislike of women. Not only do these women vie for the rapists attention, they are shown in flashbacks as being nothing more tha two vacuous, empty-headed bimbos. If the film wasn’t so ineptly made it would be hugely offensive. As it stands it’s just grubby crap. Scrapbook, the film Genie wants to be was far from great but it had moments of genuine power as well as being extremely explicit in its content, Genie on the other hand is conceptually vile but doesn’t actually show that much on-screen. There is no motivation for the cabbie, little characterisation of the two women. Just an hour or so of abuse & ridiculous logic. The “shock ending” is pathetic & transparent.
I’m not going any further with this movie. It has no redeeming features. For most people this will just be distasteful & unpleasant. For the few people out there that get their “jollies” from this kind of movie, they too will be disappointed as there is little in the way of graphic, on screen depravity. I very much doubt this movie will ever make it to UK stores. The BBFC will no doubt ban it, prompting people to actually see this shit. Please for your own sake avoid this movie like a dose of syphilis.
“Your nightmare’s only getting worse”
I Saw The Devil is a Korean horror/thriller from 2010 that is often described as “the Korean Se7en” While it shares some similar themes with Se7en, I Saw The Devil is a much more complex movie & is also a lot darker in its themes & imagery. It is a remarkable piece of filmmaking, full of atmosphere, style & extreme violence.
Soo-hyun is a government agent who is engaged to be married to Joo-yun, the daughter of the local police chief. As the movie starts Joo-yun is sitting in her car (which has a flat tyre) at the side of the road in the snow. Kyung-chul drives up & asks if she needs help to change her tyre. Joo-you politely declines, stating she will wait for the tyre company to arrive. Kyung-chul seems to leave, then returns & violently attacks Joo-yun before kidnapping, killing & dismembering her. Joo-yun’s dismembered body is discovered & Soo-hyun vows revenge. Using information given to him by Joo-yun’s father, Soo-hyun tracks down each of the men the police suspect of the crime until he discovers Joo-yun’s engagement ring in an old building used by Kyung-chul. Soo-hyun tracks Kyung-chul down at a greenhouse where he is about to rape a new victim & brutally beats Kyung-chul & suffocates him until he passes out. After breaking his wrist he forces the unconscious Kyung-chul to swallow a transmitter so he can track & listen in on Kyung-chul’s every moment, vowing to make him suffer constantly. So begins a game of cat & mouse that sees the righteous man become a monster to punish a monster. But things do not run smoothly & before long the hunter becomes the hunted.
Directed by Kim Ji-woon, I Saw The Devil is a stunning movie. Clocking in at just over two hours it is a thriller of almost epic proportions. The acting by the two leads is flawless Lee Byung-hun is excellent as Soo-hyun, a man consumed by vengeance who sacrifices his own humanity in his quest for retribution. His performance is ice-cold until the gravity of what happens overcomes everything. But this is Choi Min-sik’s movie. Anyone who has seen Oldboy will know how good an actor he is, but his performance in this movie is breathtaking. Choi Min-sik is no stranger to playing the bad guy. His performance as the villian of Lady Vengeance was wonderfully subtle. Here he really shines as Kyung-chul, a vicious psychopath, giving his character a genuine air of menace. His portrayal of Kyung-chul makes Kevin Spacey’s John Doe seem like a quaker in comparison (& I loved Se7en & Spacey’s performance) Choi Min-sik is really THAT good. If there is any justice Kyung-chul will go down in cinema history as one of the most chilling killers ever to grace the screen. The script is perfectly paced, giving time to allow the characters real depth & sucking you (the audience) into the story that by its conclusion you are truly on the edge of your seat. As is the norm for Kim Ji-woon, the film looks beautiful. From the gently falling snow at the movie’s start, a beautiful image in stark contrast to the violence committed on Joo-yun. To the green-tinged fluorescents in the greenhouse, the movie’s look is stunning. The movie pulls no punches in its depiction of violence & brutality & is certainly not for the squeamish. The end of the movie, which I will obviously not spoil here is incredibly powerful & the last images of the movie really stick in your head long after the credits have rolled.
This film in my opinion is a must see/buy. A thriller that can stand alongside Park Chan-wook’s incredible Vengeance Trilogy as the pinnacle of this particular genre. Please don’t take my word for it, see this movie for yourself. A rare work of raw power & genius. Highly recommended.