January 28, 2017

Manhole: What's Up with This Misogynist Serial Killer?

This lazily scripted horror movie about a serial killer who primarily targets young women may make you sick to your stomach. Personally, it nauseates me to think what might've drawn writer-director Shin Jae-young to make yet another grisly fright flick involving a seriously deranged man (Jung Kyung-ho), with an endless supply of crowbars, chasing attractive women through — in this instance — the dimly lit sewers of downtown Seoul. And I'm someone who enjoys horror movies! But this one is just so shoddily crafted. Are the flashbacks revealing the subterranean psychopath somehow survived a fire that burnt up his siblings and mother supposed to explain his murderous actions? Why doesn't he torch his victims then? And why isn't he fixated on killing older men if his dad is ultimately the culprit? And how in the world does he manage to be in so many places at one time?

In order for this sloppy narrative to work, a few components must be put into place. You need an incompetent police force — which you get here through an easily unnerved cop (Jo Dal-hwan) and his buddy, a former officer (Choi Duek-mun) who left the force to spend more time with his daughter (Lee Young-yoo). You will also benefit from captives who are not particularly resourceful. By making one victim deaf (Kim Sae-ron) and another, a mere child (Sung Yoo-bin), Shin theoretically makes some of their plights exponentially more challenging. In truth, it really doesn't hurt or help their chances of survival.

Who lives? Who dies? Who cares? By the end of this movie, I had neither curiosity about characters I hadn't seen for awhile nor relief for the ones that were currently on screen. At the end, when a shot of a figure wearing night goggles clues us into the bleak promise of more kidnappings and killings to come, I burst out with my one blood-curdling scream of the evening. I was truly scared... that a sequel to Manhole might possibly be made in the future. Any chance they might call it Womanhole and reverse all the genders?

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