Seen in Jeonju

Don’t Step Out of the House (2008)

11th September 2010

dont step out of the houseI received Nice Shorts yesterday. Nice Shorts is a collection of short films from 2008 and 2009. It consists of 4 movies, Shall We Take a Walk?, Girl, Mates and the longest short on the disc,pictured on the right, Don’t Step Out of the House. I originally bought the movie for Mates.  I had seen it previously at the Jeonju International Film Festival a year or two ago and remember it being very good. My opinion of it has not changed.  When I first saw Shall We Take a Walk? I thought it was a nice, sweet movie.  But after mulling it over for the past twenty-four before writing this, I have a somewhat different opinion of it. Frankly, it was too sweet. If I want to see something like that, all I have to do is turn on KBS tv at 5 or 6 when elementary school kids are watching television. It feels the directors are slightly childish–and that is from a man who watched Vectorman (1999) this week. Again, it is a nice movie–but I won’t remember it in a month. Hong Seong-hoon’s film, Girl, I could have done without all together. I am over movies trying to make abortion an issue. I was annoyed with both characters- the girl is completely unlikable and the father of her boyfriend is written poorly. He could have been a sympathetic figure–a failed father trying to seeing  a second chance in his unborn grandchild which is what his motive probably was–but it does not come across that way at all. Don’t Step Out of the House, however, is excellent. It alone is worth the price of the DVD.

In the movie, a five year old girl and her slightly older brother are alone in their house. The girl is playing dress up and the boy is trying to finish his homework before his tutor comes. Their house is very dirty and the children also seem as if they have been properly taken care of for a while. We soon start getting hints that something is not quite right. Some of these hints don’t raise red flags at first–like the boy quickly turning off the tv when his sister comes into the room or his earasing and re-writing of his homework so many times that the paper has almost worn through. Gradually the hints we are given of something is wrong become more ominous. It is not merely that their father is not coming back and they are running out of food, which is bad enough. Instead we are led to believe that there is something very wrong and there is a very concrete reason why the children should not open the door.

Eventually though, the kind-hearted nature of the children means that they do open the door to someone who claims he wants a drink of water. He is then joined by his friends. The atmosphere of the film takes on the feeling of a true horror movie as the tension builds around the unpredictable strangers. One, his face blackened as though overly exposed to a tanning lamp, is clearly the leader of the three and says that they may go hunting later. In Seoul?  One of his companions face is red and scarred as if he were recently burned and all his hair is missing. He is subject to sudden boughts of violence and then nearly overwhelmed by his guilt. The third is nearly blind and his corrective lenses are shattered. He displays the tendencies of a pedaphile and makes some hair-raising comments to the young five-year old girl that she does not understand, though her brother is quick to get between them. The horror builds as we learn  what has happened beyond the walls of their basement apartment and what exactly it is that the men have come for. Believe me, whatever you are thinking is probably wrong. This is one of the most innovative, creative and satisfying films I have seen in a while.

Director Jo Seong-hee has crafted an exceptional, albiet dark, tale and I really look forward to seeing what else he can do. I see that he is currently working on a feature length fantasy/horror film entitled End of Animal starring Park Hae-il. No release date on the project, but it is one that I will be anticipating. I think this new director will be capable of some great work in the future.

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