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October 15, 2013

Horror Stories

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Museoun Iyagi
Min Kyu-dong, Jung Bum-sik, Im Dae-woong, Hong Ji-young, Kim Gok and Kim Sun - 2012
Artsploitation Films Region 1 DVD

A high school girl finds herself bound and gagged. Her kidnapper, a young man not much older than her puts off whatever plan he has made, due to her showing some compliance towards him. Informing her that her telling him the scariest story possible will put him in the mood for some solid sleep, the young woman does her best. The set-up is a variation on Scheherazade, although this framing story take place over the course of one night rather than the fabled one thousand and one. As might be expected from an omnibus film with several directors, the results are not entirely consistent, but the two best episodes have some of the feeling of modern fairy tales.

I wasn't sure what to expect from "Don't Open the Door". Not because of the English language title which will remind some of a slew of movies with titles that began with "Don't", plus that parody trailer in Grindhouse, but because this was the solo work of one of the Jung brothers. Exquisite might not be the kind of word to describe a horror film, but the brothers' Epitaph has moments that are visually as beautiful as might be expected from the more traditionally admired masters. Parents who watch this short might be freaked out by the sight of a teacher who scares her elementary school students with a scary image, which is followed by a musical number in a school bus with the teacher's all too friendly voice suddenly dropping to something lower, possibly malevolent. Even worse, two young children are left alone in an apartment, while mom is out. Fairy tales often seem to involve young children facing, whether witch, wolf or human, some kind of serial killer.

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Based on "Secret Recipe", I hope to see more films by Hong Ji-young. The story is about the rivalry between two sisters, one who is to marry an extremely wealthy man. While the basic plot is reportedly based on a classic Korean folk tale, western viewers will also recognize a variation on story of Bluebeard. The sisters are so dazzled by wealth that no one questions why the groom would have five previous wives. There is a moment when one of the sisters finds herself in a room full of headless mannequins all in wedding dresses. Standing behind one of the mannequins, her head appears disconnected from her body. Was it intentional that this scene also reminded me of one similar in Mario Bava's A Hatchet for the Honeymoon?

The Kim brothers' "Ambulance on the Death Zone" treads some familiar territory. A mother and daughter are taken by ambulance following a car accident. Except that the story takes place during some kind of of zombie apocalypse where the infected have been bitten by rats. The daughter, comatose, has a wound that looks like a bite. The mother is adamant that her daughter is not infected, but the ambulance doctor thinks otherwise. Most of this segment takes place within the confines of the ambulance with tensions mounting between the mother, the doctor, a nurse, and the ambulance driver. As with their feature, White, the Kim brothers are visually inventive even when the story might be short on originality.

The weakest segment is "Endless Flight" by Im Dae-woong. A handcuffed serial killer apparently wasn't checked thoroughly if he's able to sneak a knife on board and kill his two police escorts, three stewardesses, the pilot and the co-pilot. Not only endless, but pointless.

While the movie is the type that would have been presented on the Tartan Asia Extreme label years ago, the presentation is classier. Giving Horror Stories a bit of serious context is an overview of omnibus horror films from Artsploitation's Travis Crawford, an essay by University of California Professor Kyu Hyun Kim, and an interview with Jung Bum-sik.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 15, 2013 08:20 AM