Tag Archives: South Korean horror

Faces of Death


by George Wolf

A deadly curse passed from house to house. A demon that can change identities at will. A young girl possessed, and desperate parents begging experts to investigate. A priest, wracked with guilt, seeking exorcism help from an older mentor. Deadly dopplegangers.

As a patchwork repackaging of several classic horror themes, South Korean Shudder original Metamorphosis (Byeonshin) works better than you might expect. Despite familiar tropes and convenient plot turns, director Hong-seon Kim scores with creepy atmospherics, sympathetic family strife and intermittent flashes of gore.

Gang-goo (Dong-il Sung) can’t believe the deal he got on the new house for his family. No other bids, imagine that! Shortly after move-in, though, the trouble starts with a very noisy neighbor and his alarming tastes in interior design.

But confronting him only brings evil closer to home, and soon Gang-goo, his wife and three daughters are facing increasing threats from each other. Or so they believe.

Turns out Gang-goo’s brother Joong-su (Sung-Woo Bae) is a priest with a tragic past, and he may be the family’s only hope to escape the demonic force that has gripped them.

Director Kim seems unfazed by the script’s lack of originality or moments of contrivance, confident in his ability to find new frights in well-traveled neighborhoods. For the most part, he does, even managing to touch a nerve that resonates beyond the horror genre itself.

Look beyond the inverted crosses, walls dripping blood and one unsurprising twist, and you’ll see Metamorphosis carrying a layer of horror-loving metaphor. We hurt each other in so many ways, and can be easily convinced that hurt is justified, or even divine.

There’s a devil in some of the details here, but the big picture is worthy.

Scary Movie: The Movie

Warning: Do Not Play

by George Wolf

Basing a horror film around the “scariest movie ever made” premise is ambitious. Is it smart?

Well, it’s ambitious. Because at some point, you’re going to have to show at least a snippet of this deadly frightening flick your film is referencing, and your audience is already poised to dismiss the impact.

Remember the “killer” tape in the The Ring? We had to see it, and if it didn’t totally creep us out when we did, the entire movie would have crumbled. But that video WAS creepy as Hell, giving The Ring the anchor it needed to stand as one of the best PG-13 horror flicks ever made.

Shudder’s Warning: Do Not Play remembers The Ring/Ringu quite well, building a familiar mystery around some urban legendary long lost film footage.

Mi-Jung (Ye-ji Seo) is a “film festival prodigy” on a two week deadline from a big South Korean studio to come up with a great horror script or she’s out.

She needs inspiration!

Film students at the local university hip Mi-Jung to the legend of a graduation film from years earlier. They can’t remember the title, but it supposedly screened once, with repercussions so dramatic the film was rumored to be directed….by a ghost.

Mi-Jung asks for help in an online forum and is instantly met with an ominous demand to cease the inquiries, which only draws her deeper into the mystery.

Writer/director Kim Jin-won provides some nifty atmospherics in the early going, but little else to demand your attention. While Kim doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares (thank you), he pushes the unreliable narrator trope via enough “waking from a dream” sequences to quickly become tiresome.

But the blood and the body count pick up in act two, as the film adopts some Blair Witch tactics – and openly cops to it, which is nice. Mi-Jung finds herself deep inside the cursed production, and we’re left to sort out the psychological strands of her experience.

The film-within-a-film may never grasp the elusive Ring ambitions, but hang in past the setup and Warning delivers a competent mystery and some fun terror in the aisles.