Seen in Jeonju

Sorum (2001)

29th January 2010

sorumRecovered post: Originally posted March 28, 2009–Sorum is a movie I have been wanting to see for a long time. I do not know why I missed it when it was released in theaters back in August of 2001 but the dvd has been out of print until recently when it was re-issued. I had high expectations when I sat down to view the movie and, for the most part, I was not disappointed. The story is interesting, each of the small cast of characters is engrossing, and the atmosphere eerie. Not eerie enough to justify the title ‘Sorum’ which in English means ‘goosebumps’ but eerie enough to keep me in suspense. The movie is described as a thriller/horror film but the actual horror elements are minimal. Barring the re-animated hamster (which is itself a questionable event as the only witness to it is completely insane) and in any case is not especially horrifying) and the grieving Eun-soo’s dream discussions with her dead boyfriend there is little to indicated any supernatural activity save for the ramblings of a failed author with an overactive imagination. Instead, the movie should be thought of as a mystery/thriller. The viewer is not handed the answers to anything and is instead expected to work everything out for themselves.  However, I expect that this movie has not been more popular because there are no clear answers and the very sudden ending that leaves even more questions than when we began.

The movie begins with taxi driver Yong-hyeon moving into room 504 of a run down apartment. To call the place a dump is the understatement of the decade. It is nearly unliveable and filled with junk that the stingy owner has stored in there. The room has mismatched wallpaper and an odd scorch mark in the center of the ceiling. None of this is disturbing to Yong-hyeon as he settles in. He does not believe in ghosts although his neighbors tell him of a death that occurred in his room. But that may be because Yong-hyeon is more than a little strange himself. This makes him fit right in with the rest of the residents of the building. These include Seon-yeong, a young wife who endures endless, savage beatings by her husband and is full of grief for her lost child. She does not take care of her appearance and appears to be barely fuctioning at all even as she works at her overnight job at a Seven 11. 

Another important character is Eun-soo who is mourning the death of her whom we learn perished in a fire. She is also barely clinging to reality as her nights are haunted by dreams of her dead lover, Kwang-tae who predicted something bad would happen to him if he stayed in his apartment. She is jealous of relationship forming between Yong-hyeon and Seon-yeong as it takes time away from the time she can spend with her best friend who was her only shelter from her nights of terror. We also learn that she had been pregnant at the time her lover died but what happened after that is left unspoken although she is definitely childless. Then there is Mr. Lee who had formly owned a publishing company. After it went under, his wife left him taking his kids and he has been struggling to write a great horror novel based on events in the apartments past ever since. However, there is some suspicion cast as to how he got the idea for the novel…

What I found very interesting was the fact that many characters important to the plot are people we never meet. The missing Min-jeong, the lost son of Seon-yeong, the long absent parents of Yong-hwan and the dead Kwang-tae. The viewer will often find him/herself asking “Did so-and-so kill so-and so?”  This is a question that can be asked at least seven times by my calculations (eight if you include the hamster). Do not expect answers from the movie though. All the answers must come from your own suppositions. There are only two deaths we are sure of the cause and one of these happened years ago as part of one character’s drunken confession.

If you are going to watch this movie, I suggest you do so with a friend. Not because it is too frightening to watch alone, but because it is the kind of movie that is fun to talk about after the credits roll. Comparing notes and working through the plot points with my friends raised many interesting theories that I would love to discuss here but I do not want to give away too much of the story.  The only thing I can say is track down the DVD and watch this film. The sudden ending may leave some feeling unfulfilled, but I found it fodder for long discussions and the perfect end for a film filled with questions.

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