Hoon-jung Park (director)
16 March 2019 (released)
The 1000th FrightFest film is a slickly plotted 2hrs of family love and comfort, government experimentation, TV talent shows and ultra-violence.
Opening with a bloody scene that may be troubling for some a couple children are seen running away from what is a charnel house. This carnage is overseen by Professor Baek (Min-soo Jo) and one of the escapees is caught the other evades capture eventually ending up in a farm where two elderly farmers take her in.
Ten years later and Koo Ja-yoon (Da-mi Kim) is busy running the farm while her parents look on her father ill and her mother has Alzheimer’s. She’s an intelligent young woman but this can’t pay the bills so spurred on by her best friend the ever-effervescent Myung-hee (Go Min-shi) she enters a talent show that gets her on the air and on her way to Seoul, though this is as much to do with her magic tricks as her singing.
On the train to Seoul Ja-yoon is confronted by man who claims to know her, she doesn’t think so but her persists to the point that he actually becomes something of a pest.
After the contest they are met by a number of men in suits who insist on giving Ja-yoon a lift somewhere while pushing away Myung-hee who has decided that she’s the manager. Eventually they get away but things have only just started as Ja-yoon is plunged into a very dark world.
The early sequences are a satisfying slow burn as director Hoon-jung Park works on Jay-hoon’s domestic family life, balancing that with the activities of the men and women in suits as they gather their forces. It’s a complicated plot and very little is given away. The audience is kept just as much in the dark as Ja-yoon which is an effective mechanism.
Of course, we know that this is going to boil over and it does with some gusto and the action and bloodletting is spectacular, if that is an appropriate word for the level of violence meted out. However, the tight plotting and the ambiguity of Ja-yoon’s character save it from being overly gratuitous. And there is some uncertainty about her true character that develops as the film plays out. The cast all acquit themselves well with Da-mi Kim in an especially difficult role that calls for a lot flexibility due to the changes of mood and tempo.