Ghastly opens with a grisly death where a woman seems to have chopped her feet off with a butcher’s knife and bled to death in front of her young son. The boy’s aunts and uncle come to stay with him at his enormous home. The boy is understandably withdrawn and lashes out when people invade his personal space with their concern or, as in the case of his classmates, with their taunts. His strange behavior leads him to become suspect in the death of his mother, at least as far as one police investigator is concerned but it also leads to some friction with his younger aunt, a high school student, who is annoyed by his actions and resents the attention he is getting. Opening an unbelivably large storage area on the premises where the boy’s grandmother kept the tools of her trade, the elder aunt stumbles upon a strange old book depicting scenes of a terrible rite that brings fertility to the couple participating in it. Now the members of the very disfunctional household are suffering from terrifying dreams and preminitions of their own gruesome deaths.
Whenever I sit down to watch a horror movie, I go into it with the idea that I am going to like it. I am also willing to put up with a little less quality in a horror movie than I might in another genre, so it has to be pretty bad for me to be negative about it. Well, Ghastly just about fits the bill. Although it has a handful of good points, the bad far outweigh any positive aspects. The good are some of the scenes in the film, particularly the dream sequences where the ghost can be just glimpsed crouched menacingly at the edge of the shadows–just out of range of clear vision. Another intense dream involves a character sitting under a desk and pounding on its underside like he is trying to escape while apparently asleep while yet another dream involving a knife uncomfortably close to a sleeping person’s eye creates a lot of tension.
However, everything else is something of a mess. To begin with, their are plot holes you could drive a bus through. I really have to wonder just how the aunt found the body of Bin’s classmate based on a watch and missing person posters. She had no knowledge of the location and no clues leading her there. There is also the question of why Bin was allowed back in school after lashing out with a pencil at a classmate who had stolen the painting of his grandmother. He would certainly have been suspended. And why was a certain character not locked up at the end of the movie. Even though we know that he/she was possessed by a ghost at the time the killings took place, it would still seem that she/he was responsible. There is no way the police would allow this character freedom at the end of the movie.
Again, plot holes I could overlook. However, the editing is probably the worst I have seen in a modern Korean film. There is often no transition between one scene and another and one has no idea how a character got there. Because of the editing, it was difficult to understand how much time had passed. For example, the grandmother is found in the hospital, barely coherent and with bandages over her ears, yet we meet her shortly thereafter, apparently fine which led me to believe at least several weeks had passed. But the disappearence of a policeman between these two events raises no eyebrows. One officer comments that he is ‘away from his desk’. But I would have thought more time would have passed based on the grandmother’s recovery.
Speaking of the police, the actor playing the investigator on the case is much too young. His real age is around 25, and he looks it. There is no way he could have the job he has. I have nothing against actor No Min-woo who playes the young cop–in fact, I hope to see more of him in movies– but something should have been done to make him look older. The casting mistakes continue beyond that with T-Ara singer Hyo-min playing a high school student. Although she is by no means old– in her early twenties– she does not look like she is in high school. Her acting is not bad although a little bit lacking in nuance, but couldn’t the director find an actress that was actually a teenager. It would have made Hyo-min’s character Yoo-rin seem far less childish while she is pouting over the lack of attention she was receiving if the actress had looked younger.
While I cannot recommend going to pay full price to watch this movie, I would say watch it if you can see it for a discounted price. It is, frankly, not very good. I probably won’t remember anything about it except for the rather horrible fertility rite, which I liked and found original), and the ultrasound scene which may very well be the stupidest thing I have scene in a horror film in a long time.