Tag Archives: The Host

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

I feel that deep down, if anyone has ever been wronged or hurt in some way by another, they seek revenge in some form on that person. So, you could say, that revenge is a very human thing to pursue and wish to deal out. I would say that’s why these films have been so successful (although box offices mighy say pshaw). After having seen Oldboy in a film class a few years ago, I knew I had to see more of Park Chan-wook’s films. He has a great sense of story and emotion coupled with a visual style you don’t often see in action films.

So I started off Park Chan-wook’s Revenge series at its logical point, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This story follows a deaf mute man named Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) who is down on his luck. His sister (Lim Ji-eun) has kidney failure and is in dire need of a new one. Ryu is fired from his job at the factory and now seeks a new way in which to raise the

This was an interesting scene involving a mirror.

money. In finding a black market organ gang, Ryu is swindled and left without a kidney himself. With no other way to raise the money after not being a suitable donor himself, Ryu must turn to desperate measures with his anarchist girlfriend, Cha Yeong-mi (Bae Doona).

Stunning visuals.

What’s most interesting about this movie is the way that revenge and its plot in the film shifts from character to character. You think it’s all about Ryu and seeking revenge against the organ dealers (and to a point, it is). But it turns into something bigger when Ryu’s ex-boss gets involved. What is intriguing about this movie is that everyone has a motive, and usually for good reason. Ryu wants to save his sister and others want to correct past wrongs (don’t wanna spoil the movie). So there’s no definitive bad and good character, and this is even apparent in Oldboy. (Haven’t watched Lady Vengeance yet, we’ll cross that bridge soon.)

Another thing that leaps out at you in this film is an insanely new way of dictating tempo and focus with camera angles and amount of time spent on one shot. Kim Byung-il and the director, Park Chan-wook must have collaborated together to get such a unique style of story telling through showing. In dealing with a deaf mute character, sound was at times taken for granted. At others, sound played an important part, more

Song Kang-ho is one legitimate actor.

importantly what couldn’t be heard. The story fluctuates in such a way that plot mixes with circumstances, and chance happenings lead to development.

More about the visual style. Amazing work with angles you wouldn’t think of. This movie can take a simple handshake shot to a new extreme. It leaves on things you wouldn’t think of as the events unfold from a single angle (one take shots are hard to do…) and tilts the cameras to gain new perspectives. Light and dark shows its place when the characters walk up an abandoned parking structure in an almost comical way. I think the creators of this film really took a brand of their own outlandishly dark comedy and injected it into their film with just visual aspects.

Also touching.

And another important part of this movie. Song Kang-ho who plays Park Dong-jin, Ryu’s ex-boss. When he gets roped into this story, things start happening. It’s not such a quirky action film anymore. The emotions come out and you see the true face of vengeance. Song Kang-ho is an incredible actor, especially by American Cinema actors. You don’t feel like he’s fooling you with his emotions and actions on camera. You feel like you’re actually feeling for another human being. He didn’t have any classical acting training before he started getting involved with acting, but he has done such a wide range of characters that it shows he has depth. A comedic, bumbling, good hearted Dad in The Host. A bloodthirsty vampire priest that I’d like to see in Park Chan-wook’s other film, Thirst. A comedic and tormented thief in The Good, The Bad, and the Weird. And he’s won awards for his work. Get a load of that.

You bring together excellent acting (and I’m talking to the whole cast about this), stunning visuals, and a bit of violence

Who is seeking vengeance on who?

and revenge, and you have an American A+ caliber action film. What’s different though? This one has heart and emotions that put it at drama level. And so far, with having watched this and Oldboy, Park Chan-wook has hit all the good points on the head. He even puts a bit of violence and gore in there for me too. Violence and a great foreign action film? I think this was made for me. 9.3 out of 10.

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Whispering Corridors

In returning to one of my favorite genres of horror, the Asian horror film, my girlfriend and I watched the first in a string of popular South Korean horror films set in the Asian all girls high school setting. In this 1998 film, right after the restraints raised after the censorship that held down filmmaking in Korea, this movie, at its best point, raised issues about keeping down a populace of people. The physical and emotional abuse felt at this school of depressed teens created an environment for horror. Not that this film is based on fact, but this dated film from a country barely scraping the surface of horror is a good first attempt.

Let’s summarize. This movie focuses around the lives of three senior students, Young Jae-Yi, Lim Ji-Oh, and Kim Jung-Sook, three differing students who encounter a hanging suicide outside of their school on the first day of classes.

I quite enjoy this, although it's from the fifth one...

Discovering this recently deceased teacher brings up issues of what brought her to this end and who may be responsible. In the same vein of a former student’s death at the school, Jin-Ju, these girls must discover exactly what happened through a journal of Ju-Jin and her secret female lover in a school of taboos. The end may leave you shocked, but who knows? I didn’t really understand what was happening until it was explained to me.

The topic of this movie was quite interesting, but, for a first attempt it was a mediocre delivery on just exactly what was being examined in South Korean film. I’m proud to say for the South Korean population that, since then, there have been quite a few good Korean films that I am a huge fan of. (The Host, The Good Bad and Weird, and A Tale of Two Sisters – check out the review!) To discount this one as just a fluke would be folly, as its just a first attempt in what has turned into a long line of success. The franchise as a whole, I’m not sure about, but I will give this movie the review it deserves.

This is about as scary as it gets.

It’s been a while since I watched this, but there were a lot of genuinely good lines that stood out to me in this film. I would say this derived from a good script, and that’s probably where the creativity started. The journal and its function in the story created a voyeuristic look into the lives of the other students in the school that I found darkly interesting. The issue of lesbian love and experimenting in an all girls school creates a comment on Korean society and the repressed feelings of the masses. In what I could only imagine as a delving into the mind of a deranged sociopath, this movie follows two lines of plot. That of the past and present. When the two collide through the survival of a student lover, the movie takes on the horrific twist that leaves a jarring, supernatural feel that at the same time as it disorients, it poetically ends the film.

I can’t really comment on the acting as usual with a film with subtitles, but I suspect the acting couldn’t be half bad. The youth of the movie could have struggled, but coming from a society with strict schooling, it could be a releasing of some pent up energy. The suspense lags from time to time, but the dark and sinister nature of the film really carries it along. The ending, as I said, is quite strange. If you don’t see it at first, you may need to watch the last 15 minutes again. Otherwise, as it did with me, it may pass over your head. So enjoy, if you can, and give this first in a long string of suspense/horror films from the good ole South Korea a chance. I’d give it a solid 6.2 out of 10 for a first attempt.

The evil minds of Korea at work.


I Saw the Devil: South Korea Does it Again!

So recently in the past few years, I’ve been really getting into South Korean films. And not just horror, but action, drama, and

Byung-hun Lee. Complete badass.

suspense/thriller. It all started with The Host (starring my favorite South Korean actor, Kang-ho Song) and has branched into similar movies by director Jee-Woon Kim. And this includes The Good, The Bad, The Weird, A Tale of Two Sisters, The Uninvited, and A Bittersweet Life. And I have just recently added I Saw the Devil, Je-Woon Kim’s latest masterpiece. And I loved every minute of it.

This latest film by Je-Woon Kim is a suspense/thriller with a few elements of twisted gore and horror, the perfect mix if you ask me. Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee), a special agent/detective, has just recently lost his wife was to a brutal murder, not knowing she was pregnant. Upon discovery, Soo-hyeon decides to pursue this serial murderer and get revenge. Once he finds Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi), Soo-hyeon goes hardcore after Kyung-chul with a fury and vengeance that almost seems unfair.

Using his secret agent skills and the aide of a tracking device, Soo-hyeon proceeds to beat the living crap out of Kyung-chul and then admitting him to a local hospital after every beat-down. With no idea why this is happening, a cat and mouse game comes about for the ages. Who will prevail?

Min-sik Choi. Sick and fantastic.

There are some freaking great aspects to this movie. First of all, the mind game that’s created echoes another film that Min-sik Choi starred in, Oldboy. Without a rhyme or reason to this menacing, violent game, people are killed left and right in pursuit of justice and cold-blooded revenge. What’s nice though, is that there’s a clearly defined line between good and evil. You know for certain that Kyung-Chul is evil and Soo-hyeon is good. What changes is the blurred line between the two and who becomes more evil in the end, and also, more importantly, who has the last laugh.

With the pain and emotion behind the actors, both for different purposes, the hidden killer inside

Thank you for a fantastic movie, Jee-Woon Kim.

everyone is unleashed and survival becomes a determining factor after all. With sick and subtle gory scenes, an occasional bare hands brawl, and even some hack and slash action, this movie goes places where normal cops can’t go. To bring in the bad guy and exact your revenge, just how far would you go to do the deed? A definite 10 out of 10.