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November 13, 2011

Starz Denver Film Festival 2011 - Haunters


Kim Min-suk - 2010
Zip Entertainment

Maybe I'm missing something here. There's been some fuss about Haunters, enough to get the film to make it's way around the festival circuit in the U.S. and elsewhere. And anyone who's spent any time reading my previous posting knows that whatever problems I have with this film have nothing to do with genre or cultural issues. I rather write nothing, than a dismissal of a film, but, hey, when I read that a film is the directorial debut of a guy who had his hand in writing The Good, the Bad and the Weird, expectations are raised.

The basic premise is that Cho-in, a young guy, with a prosthetic leg also has great psychic powers where he can control anyone he sees. All he does with his psychic ability is take large stacks of money from various pawnbrokers, the better to pay for housing in luxury hotels. Cho-in feels resentful towards the world because of his having one leg. Still, that all he does is steal money and live in comfortable digs indicates a dearth of imagination both on the part of the character and writer-director Kim. Trying to steal more money from the pawnshop called Utopia, Cho-in discovers the one person who cannot be affected by his psychic powers, a perennial loser named Kyu-nam.

Not that it would have made Haunters that much better, but I was hoping that the relationship between Cho-in and Kyu-nam might have been given some kind of explanation along the lines of Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson in Unbreakable. Unless I've completely misunderstood what was intended, there are some hints that Kyu-nam may be a superhero unaware of his own powers or identity. More damning is any filmmaker who makes me wish I was watching a film by M. Night Shyamalan.

The one unique part of the film is the inclusion of two sidekicks from the junkyard where Kyu-nam worked, a Turk named Al, and Ghanese named Bubba (?). It's very unusual to see non-Asians in Korean films, and it could be that their inclusion provided a certain amount of comic relief for Korean audiences. It should also be noted that the two actors do speak fluent Korean as mentioned in the review posted at Koreanfilm.org. Other than the casting, there is nothing that makes Haunters a particularly distinguished film. Kim had a couple of interesting ideas for a premise, inserted a couple of little riffs from The Terminator and spaghetti westerns, but was unable to come up with anything more to keep my own mind from wandering.

(Viewed as a DVD screener)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 13, 2011 08:30 AM