June 26, 2010
I hereby postulate that actors who are stunningly beautiful (Sophia Loren, Nastassja Kinski, Marlon Brando, etc.) don't need to act. Instead, they can stare disinterestedly into the distance for all I care. I'll do the hard work and invest their faces with deeper meaning. Actors who are simply really good looking however better have some acting chops to go with those chiseled features. Otherwise, like in Kwak Jeong-deok's Temptation of Eve: A Good Wife, you grow to resent them a little as the film goes on. Neither Kim Tae-hyeon nor Jin Seo-yeon is talentless but looking this good in an erotic thriller this boilerplate, they need to be a bit more nuanced in their performances to win our affections. Otherwise, the mind begins to wander and all those tawdry sex scenes that should be heightening the suspense feel as though they're shortchanging us because they never cross over into porn. We don't care if he's cycling out of control with lust. We don't care if she's out to poison her husband (Ahn Nae-sang) to get the insurance money. And if we don't care who might be doublecrossing who, then we haven't got much of a movie. With really just three characters of note (and even fewer locations), Temptation of Eve feels like a play that's been filmed for television. But not PBS. More like Ovation.
June 19, 2010
Horror fans jabber away about fast zombies versus slow zombies but how about city zombies versus country ones? Is there any difference between the pale-faced corpses who reanimate in urban environs and those who resurrect in the woods? Kim Jeong-min's low-budget Blair-Witch-meets-Dawn-of-the-Dead flick doesn't answer that question directly but the casualties in his Death Forest of Death are definitely victims of an evil woodland spirit, not a man-made disease run amok. It's man versus vengeful nature here, not man versus sinister science. And these zombies are sometimes fast, sometimes slow and always out to get you. Whether you join their ranks or not isn't dependent on whether you decapitate them before they make you bleed either. The only thing that can save your life is stopping your own blood from hitting that forest floor. Since no one here ever learns this basic rule of survival, their successive deaths are all unavoidable. Ignorance is death, as they used to say. Until someone sees the forest floor drink a whole bucket of blood and not just slurp up a few drops, visitors to this national park are going to continue to die one by one. Cleanliness is next to godliness after all.
June 12, 2010
Killing Machine is one of those movies that never quite lives up to the insanity of its plot synopsis. The story is invitingly nuts: A high school nymph (Lee So-yun) earns extracurricular money by hooking with the faculty then falls into a brief relationship with one maniacal teacher (Kim Dae-tong) who rapes her, impregnates her, shoots her, mutilates her, hires a super-seamstress to stitch her back together, then turns her into a robot assassin. Trimmed of the excess footage showing the victim/vigilante standing/staring or running through poorly lit interiors, director Nam Gee-wong's Killing Machine would've probably run a zanily enjoyable half-hour. As is, this artsy exercise in cyberpunk surrealism runs closer to an hour. That means you often have to wait through stretches of filler to get to the weird imagery like a post-op fembot's gunblasted breast leaking green goo and gnarly wires or a Metropolis-inspired rebirth during which thick electric cords pump new life into the recently dismembered girl. It's no B-movie beauty a la Hera Purple or Terror Taxi but Killing Machine is at least an attempt to think outside the box. Good things come in small packages but good things in oversized packages tend to feel disappointingly small.