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October 13, 2009

Curse of February 29th

curse of february 29th.jpg

2 wol 29 il
Jong Jung-hun - 2006
Pathfinder Home Entertainment Region 1 DVD

Curse of February 29th is a modestly produced horror film that is effectively creepy in spite of the fact that a major plot twist is virtually given away in the opening scenes. The premise, of a serial killer returning from the dead every four years is something I'm surprised no other filmmaker has jumped on before with the Friday the 13th series, as well as various holiday based horror films. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only film by Jong Jung-hon, and it looks like he spent time studying such films as Psycho, Repulsion, and the first Nightmare on Elm Street, not so much mimicking the films in style as much creating a constant sense of unease with his female protagonist drifting in and out of her own shifting reality.

Ji-yeon is a young woman who works at night at a lonely tollbooth. During a blackout, a car stops, and she's handed a ticket smeared with blood from a woman unseen, except for her manicured hand. Ji-yeon is convinced that a woman, a convicted serial killer, has returned to claim more victims. The woman seems to have disappeared during a fire that claimed everyone else traveling in a van, the previous February 29th, at another tollbooth. The mystery woman is now going after other tollbooth employees and is trying to kill Ji-yeon. More strange is that the scarred face killer dresses exactly like Ji-yeon, appearing almost as a twin to the frightened young woman.

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How much is intended, I can't be certain of, but there seems to be something of a feminist message in the film. Ji-yeon lives a very isolated existence. Her only friend is another young woman, Jong-sook, who also works at the tollbooth. Ji-yeon is also, while not unattractive, not particularly pretty, and comments to Jong-sook about how she considers her face common. None of the men that Ji-yeon encounters take her seriously, whether it's the unseen boss, the journalist who doodles on his notepad while Ji-yeon recounts her story, her doctor who provokes Ji-yeon's anxiety about February 29th, or the police detectives investigating who are suppose to protect her. Even perceived sources of protection such as bright lights in her apartment, or a crucifix ultimately tossed away, fail Ji-yeon.

There is an effective use of music and sound, with some discordant string plucking and even the shrieking violins that suggest Bernard Herrmann's Hitchcock scores without obvious imitation. Jong has some interesting use of color, particularly a tunnel bathed in red light, and a lighting store that is dominated by a golden hue. The film was written by Yoo Il-han who also two other films that were part of a four film series, "Suddenly One Day". The four films were produced for about $600, 000 and shot in HD format, initially with brief theatrical runs followed by television broadcast using newer directors and a cast of relative unknowns. The two other films written by Yoo have U.S. DVD titles of The Hidden Floor and My Blood Roomates with reviews at the valuable website Korean Film. If past history is any indication, Jong Jung-hun could be a stylist worth watching out for, or we may have at worst, a future Hollywood remake by lazy filmmakers for a lazier audience.

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Posted by peter at October 13, 2009 12:18 AM