24th October 2010
It may have taken Kim Sang-man a long time to become a movie director, but he has crafted an excellent thriller in Midnight FM, his second feature film. Kim started out in films designing posters starting with The Contract back in 1997. He designed posters for about 30 films when he was given the opportunity to be the art director on If the Sun Rose in the West in 1998. The highlight of his career as an art director came two years after that when he worked on the now classic JSA. Sometime afterwards, Kim joined a band as a bassist and recorded under an independent label. Because of this, the next film he worked on, Bloody Ties in 2006, he held two positions; art director and composer. In 2008, he directed his first film, the crime/comedy Girl Scouts which was fairly well received. His latest project, Midnight FM was also written by Kim. It was at the top of the box office charts last week and seems likely to retain that position this weekend as well. The showing I went to early Sunday afternoon was packed with viewers.
Kim’s screenplay and direction manage to build tension throughout. After watching the film, I realized that my whole body ached slightly because my muscles were tensed. I barely moved in my seat during the 100+ minute running time. The story is simple yet gripping. An insane man is obsessed with a late-night radio disc jockey and attacks her family on the night of the dj’s last broadcast. From then on, it’s a race against time as she tries to outwit the killer and save her daughter.
Soo Ae does an excellent job as the disc jockey, Ko Seon-yeong and Yoo Ji-tae extremely creepy as the psychotic fan. If I could change one thing however, it would be the way Yoo had his character speak. I get a little tired of movie psychos all speaking in the same low, monotone voices. But that’s a minor point.
There were a couple of other points, not problems, but things I was curious about. These things mainly concern Ko Seon-yeong’s daughter Ko Eun-soo (wonderfully played by Lee Joon-ha and her neice, Ko Hyeon-ji (Choi Hee-won). Children in Korea always take the father’s name, but there was no evidence whatsoever of any fathers in either case and no mention of any backstory. Also, Eun-soo cannot speak. We know that there was surgery involved and she has a scar on her neck, but..why? These questions are not essential to the plot, but I wanted to know more.
Perhaps though, the director wanted it that way. The film featured two stalkers and at one point in the film, broadcast is stopped and it directly effects the movie-viewer by having the screen go blank. I think that director Kim was making a comment on the nature of the relationship of fans and celebrities, which the radio DJ is in this film. Fans can never know everything about a celebrity’s personal life–no matter how much the tabloid press tries to prove otherwise. What we see as fans is often a superficial image. Trying to learn facts of a more personal nature in depth takes us out of the realm of fan and into the world of the stalker. We, the viewers, know nothing about the daughter though both stalkers in the movie (yes, there are two, but very different in nature from each other) know all about her. And when Ko says “shut it off” while in the ambulance, the viewers are left completely in the dark. It clearly shows the limits of fan/celebrity relationship and the point at which this particular celebrity is no longer willing to publicly share her life.
I strongly recommend watching this film, but not if you are just looking to sit back and relax. This movie is anything but relaxing…