January 23, 2010

Living Death: My God Is Stronger Than Your God, Bitch!

Kids are always getting caught in the middle of the battle of Christians vs. Pagans. In director Lee Yong-joo's first-time feature Living Death, the unfortunate child is a girl (Shim Eun-kyung) who recovers from a serious illness with unearthly powers that allow her to heal facial burns and uterine cancer then turn around and issue death decrees when someone falls from favor. When she disappears from her fairly dreary apartment, big sis (Nam Sang-mi) comes home to find her then gets caught up in a series of not-so-neighborly suicides, not to mention the religious fanaticism of her born-again mom (Kim Bo-yeon). The local police detective (Ryoo Seung-yong) can't make heads or tails of it all. And you can see why. It is difficult. What's the connection between a kooky security guard who vomits himself to death and a woman who sacrifices live chickens as part of her shamanistic practices? Okay, maybe that one has an obvious connection... But how do you account for the string of murders at the housing complex? Because they're not suicides, they're murders, moron! Perhaps the heron who shows up periodically knows. From the look in that creepy bird's eye, I bet he knows everything.

January 16, 2010

Sad Movie: Your Life Is Going Down, Down, Down, Down, Down

What strikes you as the most pathetic? A young boy (Yeo Jin-gu) who wishes his mother (Yum Jung-ah) would stay sick since she's so much nicer since she's been hospitalized? An unemployed guy (Cha Tae-hyun) who makes money getting punched at the local gym? A young woman (Shin Min-a) who won't take off the head of her Raggedy Ann costume because her face is badly burned? Or a woman (Lim Su-jeong) who can't get a marriage proposal from her firefighter-boyfriend (Jung Woo-sung)? Before you decide, please consider the potential for things to get much worse. Indeed, director Kwon Jong-kwan's bittersweet Sad Movie sets up these four woeful tales then intertwines them as he has them race towards the bottom of a pretty deep well of sorrow. So while the boy's mother will get better (temporarily), and the jobless dude will become an entrepreneur (of sorts), no one will escape the cruel hand of fate. See life as tough today? Just wait for tomorrow! I suppose a few of the characters learn something about loving others and accepting themselves while experiencing their personal tragedies but they don't seem better people for it, only bruised. Picture the ways your life can go wrong. Now live it. Or don't think about it and live for today.

January 7, 2010

Unborn but Forgotten: Forgive Me, Baby, for I Have Sinned

The big screen has spotlit terrorizing websites before but the one in Lim Chang-jae's Unborn but Forgotten may be the first to specifically target women who have had abortions. Whether the movie qualifies as pro-life is another matter however since the primary sin uniting these women turns out to be who they've screwed not how they've terminated their pregnancies. Really, it's hard to believe Lim is advocating a full-term when you finally learn who the father is. I don't want to give it all away or suggest that Unborn but Forgotten is easy to understand because there's something enjoyably incomprehensible at work here. Reporter Su-jin (Lee Eun-ju) is doing a short documentary on a cyber cop (Jeong Joon-ho) who's investigating mysterious deaths caused by a website that magically inflates the women's bellies right before death. That this website was created by a deranged artist means one Klimt-like painting and a creepy performance installation with dolls and a fetus will come into play. The neighbor upstairs is prim and secretive; a boyfriend/anchorman is cold and demanding. Can you fault Su-jin for being a bundle of nerves as she tries to survive the website's curse? At times during this movie, you'll be a little unnerved, too.

January 2, 2010

Death Bell: Their Final Exams Will Be Their Final Exam

Being at the top of the class is a mixed bag at Chang Ahn High School. Straight A's may get you into college but here they could also get you drowned in a fish tank or tossed to death in a dryer if your fellow students don't figure out that puzzle on the chalkboard in time. Death Bell's midterms of murder have something to do with a dead student whose killer remains at large. Since someone at C.A.H.S. did it, heads are going to roll until that someone confesses (and asks for an apology). Scholarship student Yi-na (Nam Gyu-ri) figures this out soon enough. Why not? She was buddy-buddy with the victim and knows what it means to study hard, only to land in fifth place on the honor roll. (That ranking gives her some breathing space when the serial killer is working down the list.) But Yi-na also knows how to have a good time, thanks to her friendship with Hyeon (Kim Bun), the school prankster who sidelines as a DJ and would definitely get better grades if he applied himself. Head teacher Mr. Hwang (Lee Beom-su) sure believes in Hyeon; Ms. Choi (Yoon Jeong-hee)? Not so much. But then she doesn't seem to believe in anyone except director Yoon Hong-seung who's giving her plenty of screen time to scream in his K-horror torture porn.