Tag Archives: disturbing images

Arang: Creepy Korean Folklore

…Not Japanese Cinema, mind you.

Now here’s a movie that stood out to me. The South Koreans did it again in this creepily well done horror movie with a great plot and ending twist to boot. Arang is based on a Korean folk tale about a young woman who was conspired to be raped and stabbed to death by her evil nanny. After succeeding, the corpse of the girl would come back to haunt the area in which she was killed. This movie, more or less, is loosely based on that. In a very similar vein to the Thai film, Shutter, this movie is a revenge/horror/thriller/detective film all in one. Let’s get it goin’.

The film starts off in a bit of the surreal, with the main detective

A haunting and surreal feel for a great thriller.

character, So-young (Song Yun-ah) encountering a salt storehouse she’s never seen before. A young girl is outside crying in the rain. Obviously this has some significance to the story right? You would be right in assuming so.

Next we move to a series of murders that appear to be the work of a vengeful ghost out to kill those who wronged her. With the help of her rookie forensics partner, Hyun-gi (Lee Dong-wook), So-young must

The dynamic duo strikes again!

discover the reason for these supernatural killings. The ending may leave you in a state of shock, and I was very happy with the way everything turned out. It’s up there with the satisfying endings of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance trilogy (currently re-watching now).

The acting in this movie was fairly good. You can always see the American influence on South Korean films and the like (i.e. Gangnam Style being so successful here and whatnot. Particularly, I’m in love with Hyuna). The crime aspect of it and the justice behind it is very

This keeps coming up about the folklore, and I keep laughing at it.

American based, and I hate to attribute that to the Korean War. It’s a jagged pill to swallow, but Koreans just do American style dramatic films better. More than 20 films have affirmed this for me.

It was creepy, but not to the point of scaring me with any of the disturbing images or frightening scenes. This was an underrated film to find on Netflix, and, as per usual, I thank Netflix for providing me with an adequately good selection of foreign films. You can never go wrong with Tartan Extreme films either.

It has been a while since I’ve seen this one, but I do plan on re-watching/buying it. It was a worthwhile film to watch. So check it out at least once. And don’t ever be crushed to death by salt. 8.1 out of 10.

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Insidious: The Downward Slope

I cannot speak highly enough of Saw creators Leigh Whannell and James Wan, but this movie in the horror genre is in a whole other ballpark. I had been wanting to see this movie since the day it came out but I could never rouse any of my friends to locate that spine and see it with me. So I sat down with my girlfriend and watched it instead. I was rather surprised with my final impressions.

The movie starts out like any other haunted house film. Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) are loving parents of three children: one baby girl and two

Old decrepit ladies scare people, right?

young boys. Foster (Andrew Astor) is their other son, but they don’t care about him. He gets one scene. The son they do care about is Dalton (Ty Simpkins). Some strange things are going on in the house, and one day Dalton decides he’s got some explorin’ to do. He climbs up into the attic and tries to turn on the light. He fails, falls off the ladder, and screams the most unconvincing scream you could ever think of. Long story short, he ends up in a coma that is just actually an extended slumber.

A dad in peril.

Here’s where things get good. Renai is being constantly bombarded by evil spirits and apparitions that appear to her and freak her right the hell out. Josh, the high school teacher husband, avoids his comatose son and the evilness in the house at all costs. He wants his son to be okay, but the months drag on (meanwhile their other son is nonexistent. The baby girl gets more face time than he does…) He can’t handle it and the wife is becoming fed up.

With some evil man presence being the last straw, the family moves out into another house, only to experience the haunting all over again. So what could it be? It must be something…

I like the direction that Leigh Whannell was taking this movie, despite the deliverance onscreen. James Wan did a good job of some scary pacing and using shadows to his advantage. The scene everybody talks about? If I had been in the

Save us, Lin Shaye!

theater, I may have jumped. The scaryness aspect that sold me though was the use of shadows and tricks on the eyes. Many times in the film, and everyone has experienced this, you see things in the shadows that are tricking your mind. A coat on a chair in the right light looks like a menacing sitting figure. A space behind a door hides demons. All that sorta thing. James Wan played that up so well that the main focus of the camera wasn’t even on these things. It left images for your mind to wander over and think, “Wait a second, didn’t the camera just miss that evil demon there in the corner?” That’s a first for a film I’ve seen.

Classic Leigh Whannell hipster move.

After this haunted house first half, comes the strange second half. In a strange way to explain away these occurrences, the family employs the help of a psychic who talks with the other side (Elise Ranier played by Lin Shaye). With her gas mask in hand and Specs (Leigh Whannell) by her side, it’s only a matter of time before the movie gets into exorcism and spectral beings. People with fears of 50’s ghosts in proper attire, beware.

I really felt the movie was carried a lot by the music it employed. There were plenty of scenes that were enhanced by the shrill violins and pulse pounding beat. Hell, I was scared of the movie’s use of Tiptoe Through the Tulips. That song and the voice it is sung in are freaky. But, at other times, the music came across as overdramatic and ruined the seconds after the scary moment happened with this over the top dramatic piece. You have to know when to play your hand.

The demon as it should have been.

What really ruined the movie wasn’t the reveal of the main monster, but the constant use of him. What is not seen as much is more frightening than what is. To describe the demon and then see him cheesily chasing the young boy through the house is just the kind of B-rated to C-rated antics that caught this movie so much flack. And the ending as well. Just when you didn’t want another twist, they throw you back in.

The acting was 50/50. I am a huge fan of Patrick Wilson, have been since I saw him in Watchmen. He has an understated way of acting that comes off as truthful. In this movie I considered him one of the best, and it showed in his dad-like ways and regretful attitude towards the end. Rose Byrne could have been better. I’ve been hesitant about her acting since Troy, and maybe that was right to doubt… Ty Simpkins, the main plot point of the movie does not know how to sell

GTFO, Barbara Hershey…

acting. Especially not a horror movie. He made it more comical. Pretty unremarkable. Also, get Barbara Hershey out of these dark thrillers. She may have had a heyday in films, but it has past. And these movies (I’m including Black Swan) are not meant for her. It needs to stop.

So with all these mixes of good scares and ample acting with a strange ending leads to an overall disappointing reaction from me about this movie. My girlfriend especially was disappointed. Sad. I’ll give this movie an A for effort, but when it comes to an actual rating, it’s pretty average. 6.1 out of 10.


The Red Shoes: Korea’s Hans Christian Andersen

First of all, this movie should be renamed the pink shoes, because clearly (unless I’m colorblind) those shoes were pink. Not that color matters, but it came off as weird… Anyways, this was a pretty satisfactory horror film from South Korea about the old fairy tale about the crazy broad who couldn’t stop shindigging in her red pumps. In this take, a curse is placed on the shoes and you should probably make sure to watch your ankles, cause you’ll get cut off by the shin.

The story centers around Sun-jae (Kim Hye-su) a working wife who is semi-happy with her life. Her husband doles on their daughter, Tae-su (Park Yeoh-ah) and leaves very little love for his wife. One day Sun-jae comes home a little too early from stalking their daughter on her way to dance class. She finds her husband cheating on her and

That’s how the movie kicks off. Bang.

promptly leaves with Tae-su in search of a happier life (a little Pursuit of Happiness, but completely different).

In a run down apartment opposite of the subway, Sun-jae is struggling to start up her eye clinic with the help of hipster before it was called hipster contractor, In-cheol (Kim Sung-chu). With a jealous daughter who misses her father and wishes he mother was gone instead, Sun-jae takes solace in her fancy shoe collection. And then, on the subway, the perfect pair comes along… of… pink, shoes.

A mother and daughter, on a mission… for shoes.

Things start going wrong, horrific visions, her daughter is becoming jealous of a pair of shoes she can’t even fit into, and life is just becoming stressful in general. The perfect elements for a gory psychological thriller. Except for the ending. When a movie has 3 different endings (2 short of LOTR: ROTK) then you know you have a problem. It means the writers second guessed themselves and thought the movie needed more closure/explanation than it actually needed. And that is exactly what happened. You’ll see once you watch the movie, it’s not that bad up until a bit of a struggle with the end. It was 20 minutes too long.

But I loved the way this movie delivered the horror. A lot of it dealt with the wait and spook (jumpy scenes) but the music really dictated the tempo. There were screeching violins, nails on a chalkboard, offbeat music rhythms that really made you feel unsettled. There were some of those psychological scenes that dealt with disturbing images (i.e., one example – not a ruiner – but bird in a bloodbath sink) and a lot of tensions between

Beautiful and tragic.

family members on some adult levels. The director and the cast/crew had a good sense of what creeps people out and what works in a classical sense, and they nailed all the major points.

This is one of those horror movies though that brings in a whole lot more than just horror. This movie tackles family relations, materialism and consumerism (with the shoes and all that, even an ad agency), a woman’s self image and outer appearance, and even feet fetishes. It was done in a very deliberately symbolic manner, and my analytical film mind actually picked up on those cues. This film ended up being a more intelligent horror movie than I thought it could be. That’s worth applauding. The acting was creepily good, special shout out to Kim Hye-su, the star, and a little girl who had to take on more than she probably bargained for, being yelled at by adults (proud of you, Park Yeoh-ah). Overall it was a very visually disturbing movie with an underlying message and too long of an ending. That all adds up to movie you should view for yourself and decide whether you like it or not. Have fun! 6.3 out of 10.

Is it over yet? Who knows…

 


Re-Cycle: The New Face of Horror

Strange Spanish text...

Now I gave this review “The New Face of Horror” for a reason. This movie may be 5 years old, but this movie packs a whole lot of suspense, shock, and plot into one film. With a simple plot inside of a psychological mess of meaning, this movie entertains the mind on so many levels. The Pang Brothers, directors of Bangkok Dangerous (surprisingly the original and the remake), The Eye, and The Messengers, these bros do a whole lot more with this film. I did find The Eye to be terrifying (the original, mind you) and full of disturbing images, it was coming from an honest place in the horror genre that speaks to exactly what horror is. The idea of seeing just what frightens you and not being able to stop it. And, I would like to argue, Re-Cycle does the same with its intent.

The movie starts out like any Ring-like/Grudge like plot device. Ting-Yin (Angelica Lee) is a successful author of romance novels, drawing on her own heartbreaking life experiences with her lovers. When her agent announces that the book she will be currently working on is one of a supernatural nature. Delving into a world of literature and life she is unfamiliar with, Ting-Yin finds difficulty in this topic. After her ex-lover of long ago returns from divorcing his wife, Ting-Yin finds she must reexamine just what love means to her. And then that’s when things get weird.

Ting-Yin and the girl.

Ting-Yin, after writing a bit of her novel, finds that the supernatural events she is writing about… are happening to her. After scenes of suspense and danger, Ting-Yin escapes into a world not her own. She wanders through this world, encountering those who would wish her harm and others who provide help. Will she discover the meaning of this world and the characters she encounters? What exactly is the meaning of Re-Cycle? You’ll have to check out this wonderful film to discover its secrets.

The chilling ghost town of Ting-Yin's mind.

What really blew me away about this movie was the Guillermo del Toro special effects. Who I consider to be the greatest creature/effects creator of all time sets the bar for me when it comes to comparison on fantasy effects. And this movie ranks highly on the del Toro scale. The hanging forest chills me, and the mask that the little girl wears is terrifying. In an almost Silent Hill (again, there’s a review on this movie on my blog), the world that Ting-Yin encounters rivals that of the decayed town in which the main character of Silent Hill finds herself in. In an almost eerily similar way, at times in the film, Ting-Yin finds herself in a section of her world that begins to decay (or recycle, as it were) underneath her feet. And there’s one section of the world that will leave you in shock.

Known as the aborted fetus room (I’ll call it that, thanks), this place of horror and its demented baby fetuses is classically considered to be a comment on the issue of pro-life. I found it to be interesting in that, in a Chinese film, a woman encounters this house of horrors in what is truly a reality for many Chinese people. Due to the regulations on population size and number of children allowed, many women would have to face this trial for themselves. But, as the Pang Brothers divulge, “That just happens to be one of the topics in the movie. We are not out to say if abortion is right or wrong.” (That was said by Oxide Pang. What a badass name.)

Quite surreal...

But this movie really rolls a lot of fantasy worlds I find endearing into one. For one, Silent Hill. The idea of a demented ghost town is always a creepy thing. Then, there’s the elements of a “Fall” type realm. In another strain, The Fall is a movie I cherish close to my heart. Tarsem Singh brings an amazingly visual movie to light with a wonderfully tragic story. Not that this movie had that, but it came so damn close I cried regardless at the end. And, as always, my personal favorite, Alice in Wonderland. As if Ting-Yin herself was the Alice down the rabbit hole, this author turned experiencer of her own mind effectively symbolizes Alice and Lewis Carroll all at once.

I actually liked this cover better.

There were only a few drawbacks to this film. The biggest one I would say is the love interest. Well, former love interest. The few parts he had were entirely dubbed over by another Chinese actor. This jarring experience really ruined one of the more emotional scenes that was meant to show you the anguish between Ting-Yin and her lover. The other was the few slightly below average demons in the world in which Ting-Yin traversed. If only a bit of special effects work had been done instead of makeup, it may have looked a bit more demonic and devious. But, all-in-all, this movie delivered on all levels. With a move from the suspenseful and shocking to the macabre and surreal, this movie ends with an emotional bang, in a good way. So definitely check this out. If I had seen this movie earlier, I would’ve given this one of the more enjoyable and engrossing movie watching experiences of 2006. 9.8 out of 10.


Premonition: The Asian Early Edition

(Tagline not true)

So does anybody get the reference in my review title? If you do, this movie plot would sound familiar to you. I’m all for this movie, because I was all for that show back in the day. Kyle Chandler’s a pretty good character actor, and in one of my up and coming reviews, I’m going to discuss Super 8, a good role for his style of acting. Anyways, for those who don’t know, the plot of this movie and the plot of Early Edition is one and the same. One is just horror. In the short version, man finds a newspaper. It predicts terrible things that will happen that day (AKA day the newspaper dictates). Guy has to stop these bad things from happening for his own good. A perfect mix of the morality of stopping something before it happens and the supernatural. Let’s get it goin’.

So, in this particular film, Hideki Satomi is at an outing with his wife Ayaka and daughter, Nana. (Reference to anime, perhaps?) Stopping at a phonebooth in order to get service to submit a project he was working on like the unaware

This dad just cares too much.

working dad he is, disaster strikes. Hideki finds a newspaper clipping, quite old, of a 18 wheeler accident at their location. Not understanding, he turns around to find his wife out of harms way, but his daughter trapped in the backseat of the car. With no time to spare… Hideki doesn’t save his daughter.

Feeling like a failure of a dad, Hideki loses whatever job he had and goes to the degrading work of high school literature teaching. His wife, being as crazy and illogical as most mothers in situations like this, divorces her husband in pursuit of psychics and other fortune telling newspapers. That’s something I just really don’t understand. Why would parents divorce over the loss of their children, or, more to the point, the wife wanting to leave the husband. Maybe I’m not old enough or experienced enough to understand, but that would create a bond between me and my wife over that tragic loss. Unless it has something to do with seeing his daughter in his wife or something…

A husband and wife, reunited.

Anyways, Ayaka starts to discover a past of these predicting newspapers while her husband attempts to shut out all thoughts of the child he couldn’t save. In some way or another, the two are reunited and begin their journey to discover just exactly why these two were able to see and understand these newspapers. But all that is revealed is not necessarily good. In a spiraling torrent of evil and unearthed past, Hideki and Ayaka must escape the future in store for them for their pursuits of the deadly paper.

So, in comparison to the other Asian horror films I’ve been watching, this one probably takes the cake. Coming from Japan, the usual suspects of good horror films, this one had the most amount of jumpy parts and disturbing images. The plot was straight ahead horror. Unearthing a secret that changes their lives forever horrifically. Check. Discovering a not so good background. Got it. It’s all good. The acting is dec, (short for decent, get used to it) and the special effects are right there in the middle of the road, not spectacular, but good enough to make me squirm a bit.

A true dad sees his dead daughter, no matter the place.

But what this movie boils down to, as I’ve been told I’m good at deciphering, is the role of the dad. The father in this movie deserves to be subjected to exactly how good of a dad he is. For the record, there are three reasons he’s a good dad:

1. At some point in the film, Hideki attempts to/sacrifices his life in order to save his daughter. This gains any dad instant “dad martyr status.” In truth, if this happens, the surviving wife will tell their children about the courageousness of their father and just how great of a dad he was for dying for them.

2. Hideki’s life spirals into a terrible depression at the loss of his daughter. Any time a dad will grieve an entire life for their child just proves how much they care.

3. Last but not least, Hideki sees images of his dead daughter and it gravely shakes him. This achieves “prophetic depressed dad” status. Any dad, if they truly cared for their child, will never get over the last image they had of their deceased child.

Combine all 3 of these criteria and you have one great dad. Subtract those parts of the film in which Hideki departs from the path of the true dad, and Hideki ends up with about 145 dad points. (100 points if you sacrifice your life for your child.) There’s no particular cap on dad points, but that’s a pretty damn good score. (If you enjoyed this segment of my blog, please like this post or let me know through comment and this’ll come back in the future.)

Not this, Sandra, not this.

And now the rating. I’ll give Premonition (not the Sandra Bullock film) 6.8 out of 10.


Shutter (The Original)

This little gem of a horror movie is brought to us from Thailand. Remade, and now the original has to include in its title, “The Original.” Well as far as I’m concerned, Thailand has a pretty good idea of how to frighten me. This version comes to us from directing duo Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom. Other previous projects include Phobia 2, 4bia, and Alone. I haven’t seen anything else from these guys except for Shutter, but I plan on looking for them in the future.

Jane and Tun, (Yeah, Jane) are a young couple, recently fallen in love (I think) who one night, drunk, run over some girl. Without stopping to see if she’s alright, they drive away. Typical hit and run. But as life goes on, mysterious images begin to appear in Tun’s photographs, leading to a story that has haunted his past for years.

This movie has some disturbing images. If you’re like me, I get scared when pictures move. Ever since I was young and saw the book to movie version of Roald Dahl’s “The Witches,” I’ve been frightened of some witch cursing me into a picture to live out the rest of my years and die. So yeah, naturally in this movie, pictures move. A lot. There’s one point where I thought to myself, “Screw that. Nobody is ever going to take another picture of me.” You’ll know when you see it.

This movie seems to be low budget and the acting suffers because of it. For most of the actors in this film, besides Natthaaweeranuch Thongmee, ( Jane/ model?) the whole cast has pretty much performed a “one and done.” In foreign films, because of the language barrier, it’s quite hard to tell whether or not the acting’s good. But it’s pretty average in this film. That is, besides the lead actor, Tun (Ananda Everingham). This guy is quite good. You actually get the feeling this guy is breaking down psychologically in this film. A great performance among amateurs.

There’s not really a lot that I have a problem with in this movie. Not much to say. The idea of lost souls trying to come back through photos, the idea of losing one’s soul, being haunted, it’s all great stuff that freaks out and bewilders some people. There’s even a great scene in the film that comments on the idea of spooky photos and the explanation of whether or not what we see in photos are real. Can anybody really ever fake a photo when it’s taken through a lens that can’t be fooled?

All I have to say is, the movie drags on at the end, but it’s totally worth the last image you’re left with. AMAZING. 6.4 out of 10

Don't look behind you.