Seen in Jeonju

Archive for June, 2013

Evil Spirit: VIY (2008)

20th June 2013

evilspiritviyEVIL SPIRIT:VIYDirected by Park Jin-seong. Starring Jeong Seung-gil, Im Ji-yeong, Hwang Taek-ha, Kim Doo-yong and Lee Se-rang. Running Time: 120 minutes. Debuted: 2008 Busan International Film Festival/ Theatrical Release Date: March 4, 2010.

I watched EVIL SPIRIT: VIY last night with absolutely no expectations of it being particularly memorable and then spent half the night and the entire morning thinking about what I saw. This story is so complex and thought-provoking that I felt compelled to search out the source material and read it to gain insights into what I saw. Director Park Jin-seong does not create an easy film which you can relax while it spoonfeeds answers to you. Instead, you have to work to make sense of the images and actions. Even though I still do not have all the answers regarding what I saw, I want to say that this was one of the most ….. (hmm– I am struggling for words here.. I wanted to type ‘most satisfying’ but I am far from satisfied and I want to know more..ah! I’ve got it!) .. one of the meatiest movies I have seen in a long time. Before discussing it further I want to say two things. First, this review will have spoilers. It has to as I want to discuss the original short story and how it compares to the film. The second thing I need to say is that this movie will definitely not appeal to everyone. If you like your films to be easy to follow, clearly linear, and to make sense at first glance.. avoid this movie. If you want to see an experimental film that demands every ounce of your attention so you can piece it together, this is a film for you. Its style reminded me of the film WRITTEN, which I also loved and thought about for a long time afterwards.

EVIL SPIRIT: VIY is based on the short story THE VIY by Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852). In that story, a young seminary student is forced to read prayers over the body of a witch whom he, unknown to anyone else, had killed. The witch’s corpse becomes animated each night and attempts to harm him as he sits protected in a circle of protection he drewon the ground that keeps him hidden from evil. Her attacks become increasingly more powerful until, on the last night, she summons the VIY to find him and, when it does, she unleashes the force of hell against the seminarian.

The movie version directed by Mr. Park is divided into three chapters like an omnibus, but where the stories are more connected than many such films– and connected in unusual ways, sometimes even flowing into each other. Because the main characters are played by the same actors in all three sections, the intertwining of stories may be through one of the actors suddenly playing a character from a previous chapter.. and a chapters conclusion may suddenly occur in the course of another chapter’s story. In a lesser director’s hands, this could all come across as a confusing jumble, but director Park was able to create something quite fascinating.

I will begin by explaining the second chapter, first. This is not the be in keeping with the non-linear story-telling method employed by the screenplay. It is because the second story, entitled The Witch’s Coffin (which is also the title of this movie in Korean)most closely follows Gogol’s original work. The VIY, which is the King of the Gnomes in Russian folklore, makes no appearance however, despite his importance in the short story. But most of the other elements are there including the old witch who rides her victims to death as if they were horses, the flying coffin that the ghostly witch employs to try and drive the praying student out of his circle of protection, and witch herself, beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Also one of the two tales told by the Cossaks in the novel that proved the deceased young woman was known to be a witch is recreated for the movie… and in a very interesting way. You see, this chapter of the movie was set up as a stage play with all the exaggerated speeches and motions– and bare sets– that you might find in at an arthouse stageplay or in a college production of a drama. However, when the guard begins his flashback, the curtains behind the men open up and we are treated to a movie of his memories. The movie has an entirely different feel than the set it is screened on in that it is highly realistic and set in modern times as opposed to the highly stylized, uncertain timeperiod, of the rest of the second chapter. The part of this memory when the witch enters the house was one of the few times in this film where I jumped in surprise… for the most part, it is not that kind of horror movie. I was not exactly sure what she did to the mother and child until I had read the short story.. the movie is remarkable restrained here. Now, I did not mention the end of Gogol’s short story in this review (you can go and read it online like I did) and the chapter of the film does end either– instead, it switches to the characters and ending of the first chapter which, in retrospect.. and after reading the original story.. may be the ending of this chapter as well..

The first chapter, listed as The Strange Woman.. starts off with us watching a very creepy casting tape. This tape is the first few minutes of the movie opening credits and the way it is shot filled me with dread. While there is really nothing very scary about watching the woman dancing on the screen and coming gradually closer to the camera, the music, lighting and, most importantly, the way actress Im moves is both sets the viewer on edge with the expectation that something terrible is going to happen. Viewing the casting tapes are the director and his assistant who also play the seminary student threatened by the ghost and his friend, respectively. The director, simply called ‘P’ is thoroughly unlikeable. He is demanding, insulting and sullen. Never satisfied with anything, P decides to immerse himself in the role of the witch’s victim in order to fully understand the emotions of the film he is trying to make and to then be able to express his artistic vision on screen. You see, P is trying to film a modern-day version of Gogol’s story as a business allogory. However, his obsession with the plot, and with the lead actress who sometimes appear as if she might really be possessed by an evil spirit, blur together in his mind so that reality and fantasy become blurred– for both him and for the viewer. I often found myself questioning of something was really happening, if it was only his his mind, or if it was just a scene in the movie that he was making.

The final chapter, Curtain Call, follows most closely what we have come to expect horror movies to be. It reminds me of the old horror comics I would secretly buy as a kid.. Like House of Secrets or Tales of the Unexpected. These stories often had a twist that you could see coming from a mile off but were still somehow satisfying when they got to their ’surprise’ ending. In Curtain Call, the director P/seminary student now plays the role of a blind musician nicknamed Henri. Henri has a horrible job playing guitar in a Karaoke bar of questionable repute by night and tuning pianos with his roommate by day. His only joy in life is that he has been asked to direct and play the music for a puppet show/play that it being practiced by a small troupe set to tell Gogol’s story of VIY. (Puppet shows are also mentioned in Gogel’s story as a way the seminary makes money) Each night after work, Henri is met by the beautiful lady in black who operates the puppet of the witch.. a masterpiece in itself– and she leads him back to the hall where the rehearsals take place. There he is happy, with the performers going through a beautful, ritualized dance which mimics the movements we see of the witch attempting to reach the priest-in-training as we see in the second chapter. His performance is deeply appreciated by the rest of the crew who listen in delight to his playing and he feels happy and useful- finding joy in being with his newfound friends. However, his roommate begins to worry about him and follows Henri one night to the place the puppet show is practiced. There he spies a horror he never dreamt existed (and one of the most haunting images in the film) and takes steps to try and protect his friend from a fiend from the grave.

While there are some spoilers here, there is a lot I have not mentioned and your general enjoyment and surprise of this film will not be altered by reading this review. While it is classified as a horror film, it is not really what we have come to expect horror to be and except for three scenes– the audition tape in the first chapter, the flashback in the second chapter and what the roommate saw in the third–I did not generally feel scared while watching this film. I was more fascinated in figuring out what was going on. I have a feeling that this is a film that will only benefit from multiple viewings and I have every intention to see it again in the near future. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly was to mine. I am giving this film 9 out of 10 stars.

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Index of the 1970s: Director Kim Jeong-yong

19th June 2013

One of my favorite things to do used to be creating the plates for the index I was building. I was proud of the fact that I had been able to type what I believe to be a nearly complete list of feature-length films by decade and that I had been able to locate images for the majority of them- posters where possible, but when not I would track down newspaper advertisements or video box covers if available. However, that proved to be the easy part. Completing the plates as I was with the entire known cast and key staff members as well as a plot synopsis turned out to be incredibly time consuming. In its own way, it was fun however I have to be honest with myself that I will never complete even one decade at the rate I am able to work. So, in the hopes of making a significant dent in the work that needs to be done– and backed by the fact that I really don’t have as much time as I used to have between work, non-film related writing (that actually pay money as opposed to blogging), hobbies, and life in general– I have decided to shorten the process. I will be no longer be building plates for each film. I will simply be adding images for the films title with some basic information. No more entire cast, plot or crew.

That being said, I will start this with director Kim Jeong-yong. Kim was born in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province on November 19, 1938. He started in film working as part of the staff for such directors as Shin Sang-ok, Ko Yi-bong, Lee Gyu-bong and Na Bong-han during the mid- and late 1960s. He debuted as a director in 1975 and continued right up until the year 2000.

His movies are listed below. Some were created a while ago and have the full information attached while the later films are the new, smaller plates. Click the thumbnail to view or head to the top of this page and click the decade 1970s where a list of directors and links to images of all their films can be found.

kimjeongyong1975  yonghomoon, kimjeongyong1976 yongbi, kimjeongyong1976susannah,
kimjeongyong1976 wrongsideofthetracks, kimjeongyong1977 shaolinplot, kimjeongyong1977  fourironmen, kimjeongyong1977 bloodydragon4, kimjeongyong1978 fistofhercules, kimjeongyong1978 sadaetonggate, kimjeongyong1978 fivefingersofdeath, kimjeongyong1979 thebarrier, kimjeongyong1979 fiercedragon, kimjeongyong1979 18amazones

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Korean Films Opening in Theaters June 20, 2013

18th June 2013




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Hotel at 00:00 (1983)

16th June 2013

Hotel at 00:00 directed by Nam Gi-nam. Starring Baek Il-seob, Choi Hee-jin, Kim Dong-hyeon, Kwon Soon-yeong, Lee Eun-sook and Byeon Hee-bong. Running time: 101 minutes. Original Release Date: May 20, 1983

zero hour hotel

My internet TV provider had added recently added Hotel at 00:00 to its horror/thriller menu. Before deciding whether or not to watch it, I checked with the KMDB to read what they have to say. Here is a description of the according to the Film Archives:
Wu Nam-ho is the second son of the head of Wuil Corporation. Nam-ho and his bride Hye-won stay at a hotel before leaving for the Canadian branch and their honeymoon. However, the bride is murdered. At this time, Sung-min, after his release from jail, kidnaps the popular singer Mun Hi-seon and brings her to the hotel. The investigators look into Hye-won’s personal life. Of the three men she dated, they suspect Dong-gu and arrest him. He confesses that he went into the room to kill Hye-won but she was already dead. It is revealed that Nam-ho is actually the murderer. A complicated relationship between Nam-ho, Hye-won, and Nam-ho’s brother became the impetus for murder.”

The Korean version of the above is an abbreviated description of a plot synopsis I read published 1985 and basically says the same thing. However, that is not what happens in this film. Yes, Nam-ho marries Hye-won and they are celebrating with their friends at a pre-honeymoon party at the hotel they will be staying at before embarking on their trip. However, it is not Hye-won who is murdered. She is not in the room when someone enters the hotel suite, interrupting Nam-ho’s shower, and slashing the handsome, young man’s throat while he gawks in surprise at his attacker. The vicious attack happens so quickly that hardly any struggle is involved. Hyewon later brings her brother in-law and his wife up from the hotel nightclub to have them say goodbye to Nam-ho, intead they find him sprawled in the bathroom, quite dead.

The police are promptly called and they begin an investigation into the unfortunate victim’s death. However, it is here that the movie gets derailed. This is namely because it gets too distracted by unrelated side plots. The most major of these is the kidnapping of the night club singer Moon Hee-seon (or Mun Hi-seon as written above). Threatened with an old-syle, straight-edged razor, Hee-seon has little choice by accompany her attacker back to his room where he reveals himself to be her ex-boyfriend. Out of prison, he has hunted her down and confronted Moon with her perceived betrayal of the love they shared when they were both youngsters on Jeju Island. He even goes so far as to insinuate that it was this betrayal the led him to a life of crime. There are a couple of reasons to have this incident taking place in the very hotel where a murder was just committed. One is to provide a red-herring suspect. The razor Seong-min is wielding as he kidnaps and continues to theaten Hee-seon looks exaclly the same as the murder weapon. The blade is the only thing we see as Nam-ho is killed.

The other reason the kidnapping case goes on far too long and we spend too much time away from the main plot is more unfortunate. The threat of rape becomes constant for Moon about halfway through the film. In her first escape attempt, Hee-seon’s dress is torn off in the most improbable and lurid fashion. For the majority of her scenes afterwards, Hee-seon is in her underwear until a kindly policeman covers her near the end. This type of uncomfortable sexual situation is what I feel often marks Korean films from this periods and makes the ’80s– and early 90’s– my least favorite period of Korean cinema. Moon’s situation is not the only example of sexual perversion in the film but the other, although more important to the film, is thankfully carefully edited and mostly implied. Apparently, Nam-ho had a fetish for whipping which turns out to be the reason for his death. It is a credit to Nam Gi-nam that, despite the sometimes uncomfortable shots of the shivering Hee-seon, she is rescued before she can be raped and that Nam-ho’s turn-on is handled with some restraint. I have not been a huge fan of director Nam’s work, but I think that is probably because most of the things I have watched from him were primarily aimed at children. For example, he was the original director of Shim Hyeong-rae’s Young-gu films and his most recent movies have featured the cast of Gag Concert (a weekly comedy series) and are also meant for much younger audience members than I.

Hotel at 00:00 (which is a title I opt to read as Hotel at Zero Hour since it sounds dramatic) is rather bland as it meanders around its plot. I mentioned the kidnapping incident, but we visit several other hotel rooms and spend a little too much time in each and this distracts from the plot which should have been the center of the film. The closing scene where the police inspectors wax profound at the slice of humanity they witness in the course of that evening seems an loose attempt to justify spending so much time away from the murder mystery, but it is too little, too late. Calling it a thriller is certainly a stretch. However, few people will be able to judge because this movie is not available on DVD.

I would give it a rating of four stars out of ten. The KMDB and Daum offer no ratings, but 4 Naver users gave it an average rating of 6 out of ten stars.. overly generous I think.

Posted in 1980s, Review | Comments Off

Movies Filming and Awaiting Release

10th June 2013


Films with Release Dates– Updated October 31, 2015… More to follow


THAT MAN– Thriller– Starring: Joo Won, Yoo Hae-jin, and Lee Yoo Yeong– Directed by Yoon Joon-hyeong (Mokdugi Video)– October 28, 2015.

THE LIAR– Drama– Starring: Kim Ggot-bi, Jeon Shin-hwan, and Lee Seon-hee– Directed by Kim Dong-myeong (Locker Room)– Opening October 29, 2015

CRUEL STATE– Documentary– Directed by Kim Jin-yeol (Forgotten Warriors) — Opening October 29, 2015

SUMMER SNOW– Drama– Starring: Ji Jin-hee, Kim Seong-gyun, and Seong Yoo-ri– Directed by Jeon Yoon-soo (Le Grand Chef)– Opening October 29, 2015

LOST CHOICES– Crime/ Thriller– Starring: Yoon So-yi, Shin Hyeon-bin, and Kim Hyeok– Directed by Ahn Yong-hoon (debut)– Opening October 29, 2015

CRYBABY BOXING CLUB– Documentary– Directed by Lee Il-ha (debut)– Opening October 29, 2015

NO TOMORROW– Thriller– Starring: Park Hyo-joo, Bae Seong-woo, and Lee Hyeon-wook– Directed by Lee Ji-seung (Ajuma)–Opening date October, 2015 (delayed)

A KOREAN IN PARIS– Drama– Starring: Jo Jae-hyeon, Paeng Ji-in– Directed by Jeon Soo-il (I Came From Busan)– Opening date October, 2015 (delayed)

THE PRIESTS– Mystery/Drama– Starring: Kim Yoon-seok, Kang Dong-won, and Park So-dam– Directed by Jang Jae-hyeon (director of many short films including The 12th Assistant Deacon)– Opening November 5, 2015

WILD FLOWERS– Drama– Starring: Jo Soo-hyang, Jeong Ha-dam, and Kwon Eun-soo– Directed by Park Seok-yeong (Steel Flower)– Opening November 5, 2015.

OLD BICYCLE– Drama– Starring: Choi Jong-won, Park Min-sang, and Park Sang-myeon– Directed by Moon Hee-yoong (I Love You)– Opening November 12, 2015

LOVE AT THE END OF THE EARTH“– Romance/Drama– Starring: Han Eun-jeong, Jo Dong-hyeok, and Kong Ye-ji– Directed by Kim In-shik (Road Movie)– Opening November 12, 2015

INSIDE MEN– Crime/Drama– Starring Lee Byeong-heon, Jo Seung-woo, Baek Yoon-shik– Directed by Woo Min-ho (The Spies, Man of Vendetta)– Opening November, 2015

ALICE: THE BOY FROM WONDERLAND– Fantasy/Horror/Romance–Starring Jeong So-min, Hong Jong-hyeon, and Jeong Yeon-joo– Directed by Heo Eun-hee (My Heart Beats)– Opening November, 2015

TIMING– Animation– Directed by Min Kyeong-jo (Audition)– Opening November, 2015

LIKE A FRENCH FILM– Drama– Starring Kim Da-Som, Shin Min-cheol, and Steven Yeun– Directed by Shin Yeon-shik (Russian Novel, Rough Play)– Opening November, 2015

CEYLON SERENDIPITY– Drama– Starring Kim Min-che, Kwon Joong-mok, and Lee Min-seo– Directed by Kwon Joong-mok (Midnight in Seoul)– Opening December 10, 2015

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Running Man (2013)

9th June 2013

Running Man– Directed by Jo Dong-oh. Starring Shin Ha-gyun, Lee Min-ho, Kim Sang-ho, Jo Eun-ji and Oh Seong-je. Running Time: 127 minutes. Release Date: April 4, 2013

PK1340521 PK1340511

Cha Jong-woo finds himself in more trouble than he can handle when a mysterious passenger whom had hired him as a driver winds up murdered in the back of Cha’s car-but not before accidently sending an encoded message onto Jong-woo’s phone. Now Cha is on the run from not only the local police, but also secret agents who want the secrets the phone contains and a mysterious assassin who will do anything to ensure that Cha does not get out of this alive. However, Cha has a ragtag collection of allies who believe in his innocence despite the circumstantial evidence that he is a killer. Among the core members of this group are Cha’s troubled teenaged son, Ki-hyeok, a quirky and tenacious reporter whose antics sometimes cause one to question her sanity, and a low-level police officer who has unfortunately lost the respect of the entire precinct. Together they race to try save Cha before he has nowhere left to run and it’s up to Cha to keep alive until then.

I was at first curious about this film because Shin Ha-gyun who plays the lead role of Cha Jong-woo, is one of my favorite actors. However, I have to admit that I never considered him as an action star. I was pleasantly surprised in the first half of the film where he does a credible, albeit a less powerful, version of some early Jackie Chan stunts which were genuinely fun if you can suspend your disbelief regarding the possibility of pulling off such stunts in real life without loss of life. I wish the film had managed to keep the Jackie Chan homage up for the duration of the movie, however the story undergoes a tonal shift and becomes much darker about halfway through the rather long running time. Actually, it becomes darker both figuratively and literally. The turning point is not the death of someone close to Cha at the hands of the ‘Dark Man’ (as actor Jo Woon is credited)—a rather fun escape scene follows at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. Instead it comes after a family member’s life is threatened. However, it becomes more literal as most scenes following this point take place at night. In fact, may major complaint is this point. The last twenty or thirty minutes of this film are so ill lit that It was difficult to tell what was going on and who was present during the action.

While Shin is generally an excellent actor, his character does seem to chew up the scenery a bit in this film and it would have benefited the movie he had shown a little restraint. Even so, he is still enjoyable to watch and I have always felt that he dives whole-heartedly into each role he takes. But how do the other actors fair?

There is Lee Min-ho as Ki-hyeok.. not the Lee Min-ho who starred in Men Over Flowers, this is a younger actor. Lee does a good job with what he is given but, as I mentioned with some of the action scenes, you need to check your disbelief at the door in regards to Ki-hyeok. The writing hurts this character tremendously, saddling him with mother-abandonment issues as an excuse for his dour and disrespectful personality. Prudent editing of that whole subplot, as well as his brutal beating of an underserving classmate that frankly should have landed him in jail would have improved the character immensely and would have served the dual function of whittling down the running time. While 127 minutes may not more than average for a film, I was checking the clock on and off through some of these unnecessary scenes involving the younger Cha wondering when the movie would finish.

Some of the supporting characters were much more interesting. Kim Sang-ho as Officer Ahn gives a solid performance and Jo Woon as the ‘Dark Man’ merely has too look menacing as in most of his movies, but he does that extremely well. However, one of the best characters was the unusual reporter , Park Seon-yeong played by Jo Eun-ji. Jo’s birdlike motions and features add a strange, quirky and sometimes quite uncomfortable feeling to the character. She is someone I loved watching but wouldn’t really want to be associated with in real life as she was too unpredictable and her immaturity sometimes comes across as if she is not playing with a full deck. She does, however, manage to steal most scenes that she is in.

What is my final evaluation of the movie? It is watchable if not particularly memorable. Like I said earlier, I wish it had stuck to the comic action in the style of an early Jackie Chan film instead of trying to get all dark and gritty which unfortunately has made it blur into one of a thousand of shoot-‘em-up action films that I have watched over the decades and it is unlikely I will remember plot details this time next year. Daum web browser has it rated at 8.0 out of 10 while Naver gives it a similar 7.98 from internet users but a 6.4 from film critics and reporters. I would have to agree with the latter and I would rate it about 6 out of ten stars.. but that is mostly because of Shin Ha-gyun’s effort.

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