July 22, 2008

Redeye: When the Dream Is Not a Nightmare

If nightmare-causing moments are what you're after, most Korean fright flicks are bound to disappoint. Look at Redeye, Kim Dong-bin's moody spookshow about a phantom train on which deceased passengers share berth-space with the living. It's got plenty of horror movie mainstays: the rainstorm, flickering lights, fog, cobwebs, a random spider, a music box, and an affectless child who likes to draw in red. It's also got some second-tier dependables like dirty mirrors, a late victim's cell phone, a possessed wig, a camera that sees ghosts, and a pair of shiny scissors used repeatedly as a weapon. As a catalogue of creepiness, Redeye is respectable stuff. As a journey into your darkest fears, however, it's more a conundrum. As the runaway train careens towards a terminal of the dead, the heroine (snack bar servant and daughter of the dead engineer) sleepwalks from one disaster to the next. Ghosts may come and go; she may scream and faint. But the dreamlike world isn't terrifying so much as its surreal. That's not a complaint. K-horror often feels like a strange, off-kilter parallel universe. Like many unconscious psychic trips, it's filled with symbols and a cast of characters who rarely ask why anything is happening.

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