Director – Sang-hoon Ahn
Cast – So-yeong Choo, Won-jung Jeong, Hae-in Kim, Ok-bin Kim, Dong-Wook Lee, Jong-su Lee, Yun-ah Song
Release Year – 2006
Reviewed by John of the Dead
For the most part, I enjoy South Korean horror. While J-horror and HK-horror seem to rule the Asian horror scene, South Korea has been catching up lately and giving us some quality, and unforgettable, horror films. Films like The Host and Thirst give us scenes that most of us who enjoyed the films(a vast majority of viewers) will never forget, and were left as flabbergasted as I was. Example: The Han River scene in The Host, yeah, WOW. Anywho, based on my respect for South Korean horror I decided to give a watch to a South Korean film I had never heard of before viewing, titled Arang. From the storyline alone I expected to like this one, but in the end all we are given is a cliché mess of everything South Korean horror isn’t, and J-horror is.
This film begins with a broke ex-con dying a grisly death in a home he cannot afford. Assigned to the case are two detectives with their own problems as well. Det. Min, the lead detective, has been given her first assignment after a lengthy suspension due to her violent anger problems, and her partner, Det. Lee, is a rookie with sh*t for brains. When those close to the ex-con begin to die the same type of mysterious and grisly deaths, the investigation leads Det. Min and Lee to an abandoned salt storehouse on the edge of the ocean, a storehouse with a deep buried secret 10 years in the making.
I am always down for a good mystery, and when you throw in a good sense of supernatural horror my interest only gets stronger. So because of this, I really expected to enjoy this one given it had at least a mediocre level of writing and execution, but that was not the case. Execution-wise director Sang-hoon Ahn gave us a visually fantastic film that came with great cinematography and superb camera angles. We get a fair amount of scares thrown in the film, but if you are tired of the usual long-haired ghost scares then you will be as disappointed as I was. For a film with such scares we did get a pretty good amount of ghost action from the long-haired girl, which I found somewhat positive. Usually we get just the cliché girl here and there, but in this film she plays a pretty big role and that at least alleviated my distaste for the cliché girl because I got a fair amount of action for it. Plus, she really did look pretty damn freaky thanks to Sang-hoom Ahn giving her a very real and not so ghostly look.
The rest of this film’s problems lie in the storyline, which I was really disappointed in. From the outside the plot looks interesting and enjoyable, but once things get going we are thrown into a ridiculous mess that left me not only uninterested but quite appalled that such acts even occurred in this film. The core mystery element behind the storyline is positive, but due to the fact that it only covers maybe 10 percent of the film and the other 90 percent must be branched off really hurt this film. Why? Well, everything added to the core of the film was overly silly and ridiculous even for a fictional film. I will not go into spoilers, but there were a few scenes regarding Det. Min’s investigative work that were completely unbelievable and downright impossible to have occurred under normal circumstances, and because none of the scenes were explained I must knock this film for such atrocities. Too many different twists and sub-plots were left unexplained, and not in the good “mysterious” way but in the annoying “what the hell is going on?” kind of way. Don’t bother going into this film with a pen and notepad to try and jot down clues to what is going on, you have better chances of memorizing “The Stand” than some of the ridiculous scenes in this one.
Overall, this is a South Korean effort that showed a fair amount of promise in its core storyline but the storyline itself is what leads to this film’s demise and mediocre, non-recommended output.