The latest news on the Sony hack reveals that on top of the world learning of just what the film industry thinks of “the talent” this new age of computer chaos has created terrorist film critics who really do not like The Interview. While this may sound the least bit trite, it is not meant to downplay the viciousness that has been displayed, or attempt at Internet terrorism being perpetrated by the GOP (Guardians of Peace). The GOP claims, through a very unveiled threat, that they will attack cinemas that dare to show the Seth Rogen and James Franco “unfunny” comedy.
This South Korean horror/thriller film is based on true events. Between August and September in 2007 a 70-year-old fisherman murdered four women in Bosung South Korea. Notes from the entry of the film in AsianWiki state that the events have been fictionalized.
Directed by Sung-Hong Kim (Say Yes 2001) and starring Moon Sung-Geun, Choo Ja-Hyun and Jeon Se-Hong it tells the story of two young sisters who have the misfortune to cross paths with an old sociopath living alone with his disabled mother.
The old sociopath Pan-Gon (Moon) sporadically runs a chicken soup cafe on the outskirts of town. He is considered a sort of village idiot, harmless enough, whose wife left him years ago. He is an object of scorn from the men in the village who are jealous of the fact that his land is worth a fortune.
The first sister to meet Pan-Gon is Hyeon-A (Jeon) who is travelling with a producer who is going to cast her in his film. They see the sign advertising chicken soup and stop for lunch. While waiting for the soup Hyeon-A goes to call her sister Hyeon-Jeong (Choo) on her mobile (cell) phone. Sis is a bit of a worrier and tends to keep close tabs on her sister. While the two girls are talking on the mobile phone, Pan-Gon approaches the producer and asks if he will help him to move some bags of grain.
Explaining that he is old and has a bad back, Pan-Gon says he will give the couple a discount on their meal, if the producer will help him out. Slightly dubious and thinking that the old man is kidding him, the producer starts lifting bags of grain. In mid-lift, Pan-Gon takes a piece of piano wire and tries to strangle him. The wire breaks and the producer starts weaving to the door with blood dripping from his mouth and throat.
Hyeon-A comes up just as the old man buries a shovel into the producer’s head killing him. Panic stricken, she cannot move. Behind her is a dog that she is clearly terrified of and in front of her is the murderous Pan-Gon. Frozen in place, Pan-Gon shoves a rag over her mouth and she passes out.
She awakens in a dog cage in a room that has a bed, a couple of lights, and a sink. Pan-Gon comes in and tells her he won’t harm her.
This is the beginning of his systematic torture and rape of the helpless girl. Meanwhile the sister, Hyeon-Jeong is trying to track down her missing sister with little to no help from the local police.
This film was quite unpleasant to watch at first. The torture and the raping of the first sister was disturbing and hard to watch. The director did not show too much but it was still uncomfortable viewing. The other reaction that this part of the film evoked was one of anger at the lack of fight that the girl had. She might as well have had a tattoo on her forehead that said “victim.” The scenes did show just how unhinged Pan-Gon is and how far he will go to maintain absolute control over his victim.
When her sister Hyeon-Jeong comes looking for her you feel a sense of admiration as she gets almost no help from the local police; despite this she refuses to give up. The police chief flatly refuses to help until she provides some sort of “hard evidence” that justifies his involvement. His assistant takes a shine to Hyeon-Jeong and gives her his card saying that she should call him if she needs any help or gets into any trouble.
I first watched this film about eight months ago and gave up three quarters of the way through. I became frustrated at the lack of interest exhibited by the local police and did not really care for any of the local characters. It is almost as if the director decided to make a South Korean equivalent to the inbred hicks that inhabited the rural south in the film Deliverance. All that was missing from the murderous villain of the piece was the slobbery drawl of “You got a purty mouth.”
But impatience and annoyance aside, the film did actually pick up in the last quarter and became more interesting. But only because the last of the film becomes a cat and mouse game with bloody action and deadly consequences; and oddly enough that was what really let the film down. Despite being touted as being “based on true events” the film devolved into standard slasher fare, albeit with a bit of white knuckle action between the “hero” and the “villain.”
As much as I adore South Korea’s cinematic offerings, this was one film that did not fall into the category of brilliance that I’ve come to expect from the auteur directors who enthral their audiences. Interestingly enough, I did not care much for Say Yes either. The film was very similar to this one in that a lot of the gore and sadistic butchery seemed to lower the film from thriller status to what my daughter says is “torture porn.”
The fact that I had to try twice to watch the film from start to finish says a lot about the quality of entertainment that it offers. In essence, I would not recommend anyone rush to see it. It might be worth a watch is there really is nothing else on the telly and all the other films on Netflix have been watched already. Missing is a definite 2 star film that only gets the second star because of the fighting spirit shown by the second sister.
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