Seen in Jeonju

Coma 1: Birthday Party (2005)

10th January 2010

coma 1Originally posted May 17, 2009–In 2006, the Jeonju International Film Festival screened a five-part film entitled Coma. Although produced by OCN-TV and Sio to air on television later that year, the festival’s directors felt it worthy of showing as part of their Korean Cinema on the Move section.  The project was overseen by director Kong Su-chang (R-Point, GP-506) who also directed the first and final chapters, Birthday Party, Doctor Jang Seo-Won).  The second chapter was directed by Jo Gyu-ok (who has only done short films to date). The third, Necklace, by Yoo Joon-seok (Invisible 1–a short film) and the fourth chapter, Crimson Red, by Kim Jeong-gu, original author of Resurrection of the Little Match Girl, comprise the other 50-minutes chapters of the film.

Birthday Party opens with terrified members of the hospital staff trying to prevent a wall from being taken down. The wall reveals a sealed room. Although the demolition crew seem unimpressed by the dusty operating room they find behind it, the nurse is clearly terrified and hurridly backs out of the hall. The other member of the hospital staff shakily re-attaches a paper charm meant to keep ghosts at bay to the bed. As he leaves, he sees something that sends him screaming from the building shouting “They opened the room! It’s still alive! It’s alive!”   All-in-all a very effective beginning that sets a creepy atmosphere.

The man’s hystronics are witnessed by insurance representative Yoon Yeong. She has come there to oversee the transfer of a coma patient, So-hee, unclaimed by relatives. The insurance company has been paying for her care as whatever happened to to So-hee was said to be the hospital’s fault. However, with the hospital closing, the obligation of the insurance company has come to an end.  Yoon Yeong visits the patient and cross-references the hospital records and discovers several discrepencies that get her very suspicious as to the identity of the coma patient.

Ten years earlier, Yoon Yeong’s sister Hye-yeong disappeared from the same hospital. Numerous flashbacks reveal that Yeong was partially responisble for the disappearance and during the times she was with her sister, Yeong was downright cruel. In her defense, Yeong was just a child and behaved selfishly as children do. However, the vengenful spirit haunting the deserted hospital walls does not agree that Yeong was not to blame. Left alone in the empty building, Yeong experiences terror like she has never known as something tries to help her celebrate her birthday.

The Birthday Party is an interesting chapter and can be watched as a movie unto itself even as it sets up mysteries to be explored by later chapters.. Kong Su-chang’s characteristic time-jumping flashbacks, seen in both of his feature length films, are prominent here and cause may cause some confusion–especially in the scene where Yeong is locked in the empty morgue–but it all sorts itself out. 

Coming next: Coma 2: Crack

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