BARE BONES: THE CALL (2020)

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THE CALL (2020)

Korean chiller has Kim Seo-yeon (Park Shin-hye) returning to her childhood home to visit her sick mother (Kim Sung-ryung). She looses her cellphone and is forced to use an old mobile phone left at the house. Soon she is getting phone calls from a girl, Oh Young-sook (Jeon Jong-seo), who claims to live in the same house, but twenty years earlier…a girl who has been dead for two decades. Their paths having crossed in 1999, when she was a child, Kim Seo-yeon uses her connection to the past to save her father’s (Park Ho-san) life and in return, uses her knowledge in present day to save Oh Young-sook from being killed by her abusive mother (Lee El)…or so she’s been lead to believe. Oh Young-sook turns out to be deranged and homicidal and her strict, religious mother, thinking she’s possessed, killed her. Now alive and unleashed, Oh Young-sook preys on Kim Seo-yeon and her family from twenty years earlier, leaving the woman helpless as the serial killer carves a trail of bodies two decades in the past.

Film is written and well directed by Lee Chung-hyun, based on the 2011 film The Caller (reviewed HERE). Lee Chung-hyun takes the basic plot in his own direction and uses it effectively, as Kim Seo-yeon unleashes a monster and is helpless as the young psychopath starts killing people two decades earlier in 1999. People who now disappear from the present. The tension builds, as the young killer threatens Kim Seo-yeon’s family, unless the woman uses her future knowledge to help Oh Young-sook evade capture and even death. The further this “relationship” goes, the more demented the girl gets and the closer she gets to taking away the father Kim Seo-yeon has regained and the mother, who is now completely healthy. The film cleverly and effectively shows the effects of the sadistic Oh Young-sook changing the past and removing people who were still alive in Kim Seo-yeon’s present. There is some shocking and impactful violence and some solid intensity and suspense, especially in the last act. The cast is very good, with Park Shin-hye making a likable and sympathetic heroine and Jeon Jong-seo making a very good villain/serial killer. Unnecessary downer ending aside, it’s a quasi remake that improves upon a well intentioned but flawed original. Known in it’s native South Korean as simply Call, flick is currently streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: LINGERING (2020)

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LINGERING aka HOTEL LAKE (2020)

Lingering aka Hotel Lake finds Yoo-mi (Se-yeong Lee) taking charge of her little sister Yoon Ji‑yoo (So-yi Park) after the death of their mother. She doesn’t plan to do that for long, as she returns to an old lakeside hotel run by her mother’s friend Gyeong-seon (Ji-Young Park) to leave her sister with the woman known to them since childhood as “Auntie.” Upon arrival, things are not as they seem, as strange events begin to occur and soon Yoo-mi starts to believe she and her younger sibling may be in danger. What follows is an unraveling mystery of both the human and the supernatural kind with Yoo-mi and her little sister caught in the middle.

Korean horror is written and directed by Yoon Een-Kyoung and is a disappointingly mediocre supernatural thriller. It has some nice atmosphere, the cinematography by Hyeong-bin Lee is quite sumptuous and the locations are quite spooky. Se-yeong Lee makes a solid heroine as Yoo-mi and Ji-Young Park is good as “Auntie” Gyeong-seon. It’s just the story is predictable and the haunting elements are routine. We know something isn’t right at this beautiful old hotel and that there is something Auntie is not telling us. We also never quite trust the almost too gracious and agreeable Gyeong-seon from the start, which makes later reveals more of the “I thought so!” kind. Still it has some effective moments and there are some gruesome make-up FX and abundant bloodshed in the second half, when Yoo-mi starts to unravel the hidden secrets of Auntie and this haunted hotel. Not a bad movie, but not especially memorable either. Streaming on Shudder for those interested.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)

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I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)

Brutally violent Korean thriller is well made and has many effective and intense sequences, though one may have a hard time with the direction this blood soaked thriller takes one of it’s main characters, although the moral breakdown of that character is basically the point of Park Hoon-jung’s script. The story finds special intelligence agent Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) seeking revenge against serial killer Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) who brutally murders his pregnant fiancé. The police can’t pin the crime on him, but Soo-hyun goes outside the law to get proof and track him down. Instead of killing him or turning the vile Kyung-chul in, he let’s him go and continues to track him while the sicko continues to kill, only so Soo-hyun can continually attack him, cause him pain, then let him go again. While the causing him pain and suffering part… Kyung-chul is a monster and deserves it… makes sense,it’s hard to believe Soo-hyun would allow him to continue having the opportunity to keep killing others. Many innocents die so Soo-hyun can play his game of vengeful cat and mouse and he seems like too good a man to allow the murder of innocent people, just so he can satisfy his thirst for revenge despite his loss and pain. This strategy also allows Kyung-chul to have the opportunity to turn the tables as he increasingly becomes amused with the game of the hunt and decides to play along.

Still, it does give Director Ji-woon Kim the chance to graphically show us the depths to which people can sink when driven by grief and revenge, as the difference between Soo-hyun and Kyung-chul blurs increasingly with each savagely violent set piece. Kim crafts quite an intense downward spiral for his main protagonist as Soo learns how to be a monster from a man who enjoys being one. Despite the lapses in logic, the game between hunter and prey does get quite involving. The acting is very good from it’s cast, especially from it’s two intense leads, Lee and Choi, and the cinematography can be beautiful despite the gruesome nature of the film.

An interesting movie if you can stomach the violence and the film does get quite graphic and brutal. How much you are willing to believe a good, loving man can be driven to become a vicious monster to gain revenge, will determine how much you can go along with it’s story. The film is fascinating, despite not totally convincing one that an honorable man like Soo-hyun would allow so many innocents to be harmed, just so he could play games with the dangerous Kyung-chul. Then again, that seems to be the whole point of this grim but involving thriller…that revenge may not be worth the price it extracts from one’s soul. Highly but cautiously recommended as this is a brutally violent and intense thriller.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) ball peen hammers.

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