Posts tagged “South Korea

Phone / Living Off the Grid


Phone  -  Front DVD Cover  -  UK Release

Following hot on the heels of well-known Asian chillers such as “Ring”, “Dark Water” and “Ju-on” comes a ghost story to top them all.  “Phone” tells the story of an investigative reporter, Ji-won, who has recently published a controversial article about sex-scandals and has since begun receiving a series of menacing phone calls.  In an effort to escape the phone calls she changes her number and moves house, but the calls keep coming.  When a friend’s young daughter innocently answers the ringing telephone she begins to exhibit increasingly crazed behaviour.  As she tries to unravel the mystery behind the phone calls Ji-won uncovers a secret that will change them all.  Stylish and terrifying, “Phone” follows the growing pedigree of Asian horror, that shock, scare and astonish in equal measure.

2002  –  Certificate: 15  –  South Korean Film
Rating Details: Strong psychological horror
7.0 out of 10

It’s confession time here in Cactus World.  I’ve never owned a mobile phone.  I’m one of the 10% or so of people living in the UK that doesn’t have one, a country in which there’re more mobile phones than people.  It’s not that I’m a Luddite or anything.  I got Windows 7 when it first came out, I’ve a 120Mb Internet connection, a TV service with hundreds of channels I never watch and even a landline.  I actually have a mobile for work too, (an elderly Nokia smartphone, although no data contract to go with it).  The amount of increasingly desperate marketing materials I get from Virgin Media offering me billions of texts, terabytes of data and endless free mobile calls, suggests its marketing department’s best algorithms have identified me as a dangerous, social anomaly that needs to be dealt with, by selling me a phone and mobile service contract as soon as possible.  I imagine GCHQ has probably got me on its ‘high risk’ list of people who’re attempting to live off the grid, in preparation for launching a huge, worldwide terrorist attack on the good and the great.  Unfortunately, the two things I’d actually need to make getting a phone worthwhile, namely some friends to contact and some time in which to do so, don’t seem to be included in any of Virgin Media’s offers, at least not yet…  This film hasn’t made getting a mobile any more attractive to me either.

This is a chilling movie.  At least the first half of it is.  Then the story gets a bit muddled up and it turns into more of a straightforward, supernatural thriller, before everything gets explained at the end.  The latter was pretty helpful, as by then I’d sort of lost the plot and it wasn’t as if I’d had much to drink either.  It’s worth a watch just to see the terrifying little kid in it.  I really did believe she’d been possessed by the spirit of her father’s dead, underage lover.  I was going to ring the police to report it, but by then I was too scared to use the phone.  This film makes great use sound, from the  audio design itself through to the annoying ringing of the phones.  The latter all seem to share the same cheap and nasty ringtone, although the modern option of the latest nondescript Top Ten hit by someone with little talent, played via a speaker with all the sonic range of kettle, is arguably no better.  There was some decent DIY on show too.

One of the things that makes this film work is its music.  In particular, it uses Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor Op. 27 No. 2 (aka the Moonlight Sonata) to great effect.  This is one of the best bits of classical music ever written.

The trailer is almost entirely useless, as it does nothing to make the movie interesting.  In fact if you wanted to see how not to make a trailer, this one would be a pretty good example.  It’s over melodramatic, incoherent, says nothing about the film and is too dark as well.

Recommended for journalists, wives that don’t appear to do much and schoolgirls that want to get off with older men; and pissed off spirits.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment?  Chang-hoon is some guy.  He’s the CEO of a big company, has a beautiful wife and a schoolgirl lover, yet he’s got all the personally of a plank of wood.  I guess his money and his (I assume) ability in bed must make up for it.  (His wife was pretty boring as well if I’m honest.)  Still, he’s clearly some sort of Korean alpha male, badass dude.

Phone at IMDB (6.3 / 10)
Phone at Wikipedia
Phone trailer at YouTube

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Yoga / Keeping Fit With Indian Takeaway; and Beer


Yoga  -  Front DVD Cover  -  US ReleaseStriving for the ultimate inner beauty can be deadly.  Six gorgeous yet narcissistic women, driven by their superficial existence, are lured to the most prestigious underground yoga studio.  Their desire for beauty holds no bonds and each will stop at nothing to achieve it.  As they settle in the studio and begin their quest, strange and disturbing events start taking place.  Girls start disappearing and it is evident there’s an evil presence among them.  Their quest for beauty brought them to this haunted studio; their will to survive is the only thing that can get them out.

2009  –  Certificate: Not Rated  –  Korean Film
5.5 out of 10

My campaign to get fit, live forever, save the planet and save money, literally took a giant step forward this week, when for four days in a row I walked to work and back, a total of nearly 20 miles!  To celebrate this and mitigate the worrying fact that I may be turning into some sort of boring, fitness junkie, today I ordered a giant Indian takeaway for my dinner, complete with beer.  Oh well, it’s back to the starting line next week.  This film is about something not altogether dissimilar.

Like me, this movie is all about people who only care how they can use their looks to get on in life.  Consequently, it’s hard to sympathise with them when they start to ‘disappear’.  They’re simply obsessed with being bitchy in the way adults are and being more beautiful than anyone else.  They can’t even follow the yoga teacher’s simple rules.  It doesn’t help that all of them are already gorgeous looking anyway.  It’s very much an ironic case of, tough, but you can’t have your cake and eat it.  Outside of its six babes, this is a movie that looks good, in a gloomy, haunted house kind of way, but commits the number one sin for a horror; it’s simply not scary.  After I’d watched it, I didn’t have any problems going to the toilet via the dark hall outside my living room.  The best horrors can have me checking inside the shower and not turning my back on the bathroom door, ‘just in case’.  Testing the lock on the front door and looking inside the wardrobe are not unheard of either.  It’s passable as a film to spend an evening watching, but its lack of really scary stuff makes it quite boring at times.

Music.  There isn’t much, although it’s so forgettable that I’ve forgotten about it already.

Recommend for yoga teachers, TV presenters, shopping-channel aficionados and consumers of vapid, shallow, corporate-sponsored glamour and beauty.  Not recommended for yoga students.

No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.

Top badass moment? Near the end of the film, Hyo-jung is in a subway station, where she starts to see people she thinks are dead.  The symbolism of it was all rather lost on me. However, at precisely 1:33:37 she lets out a wonderful, nine second long scream.  A great bit of movie mini-magic, which therefore makes it badass.  You’d never guess she had lungs that big.

Yoga at IMDB (5.0 / 10)

Yoga at Wikipedia


Say Yes / Cleaning Toilets


Say Yes  -  Front DVD Cover (UK)Celebrating their first wedding anniversary, Yoon-hee (Chu Sang-mi “Soul Guardians”) and Jung-hyun (Kim Joo-hyuk “Blue Swallow”) embark on a road trip into the countryside.  During the trip they meet a stranger, M, (Park Joong-hoon “Nowhere to Hide”) and offer him a ride.  However things quickly turn sinister when M starts showing up at all the destinations the couple arrive at. Tensions escalate as this film becomes a taut psychological thriller that takes some unexpected turns.

2001  –  Certificate: 18  –  South Korea
Rating Details: Strong, bloody violence
7 out of 10

I’m pissed off today.  I feel like a toilet cleaner.  I feel like a toilet cleaner who’s getting blamed for the state of the toilets he’s cleaning.  I feel like a toilet cleaner who’s getting blamed for the state of the toilets he’s cleaning, but hasn’t been given the equipment he needs to clean them.  I feel like a toilet cleaner who’s getting blamed for the state of the toilets he’s cleaning, who hasn’t been given the equipment he needs to clean them and is then getting blamed for that too.  I feel like a toilet cleaner who’s getting blamed for the state of the toilets he’s cleaning, who hasn’t been given the equipment he needs to clean them and is getting blamed for that, whilst also being blamed for not cleaning them quickly enough either.  Cleaning toilets is literally a shit job.  On the upside, the couple in this film end up having an even more crap time than me.

This is a pretty obscure South Korean thriller/horror that’s actually not too bad.  Happy young couple go away for a few days to celebrate the husband’s success at getting a publishing deal for a book he’s written, nearly run a guy down in a service station car park, give him a lift somewhere because they feel bad about what they’ve done, then suffer the consequences as they realise they’ve picked up a psycho.  By and large, their reactions to things weren’t too outlandish most of the time, so the movie feels quite believable.  It’s films like this that I blame the lack of cohesion in many of our communities; no one trusts anyone these days.  How much nicer would it have been if the guy they picked up had turned out to be an all-around decent chap and they’d all become life-long friends?  Nice yes, but probably boring.  No, on second thoughts I think I prefer the fact that he spent the next few days terrorising them, trying to get the husband to tell him to kill his wife (the “say yes” of the title) and generally making their lives hell.  The couple was decent enough, quite easy to sympathise with.  The husband, Jung-hyun, started off as a bit of an ‘average-man’ trying to be the alpha-male and to his credit he did give the psycho a bit of a beating in the street at one point (and the latter wasn’t a small guy by any means), but he quickly realised he was out of his depth and didn’t continue to try to be a macho-style hero.  I’ve got to give him his credit though, he had to put up with a lot of shit (there’s a lot of it about at the moment) and he’d certainly earned the respect I accorded him by the time the film was over.  I thought the Korean police were pretty rubbish; the couple didn’t seem to think much of them either.  The psycho is suitably deranged, creepy looking and sounding; I couldn’t help thinking he’d probably had a toilet cleaning experience not unlike mine that had pushed him over the edge.  For all I know he had, as we learn very little about his life, but I guess he must have done something else with it as I can’t imagine he’d been regularly hassling holidaying couples over a long period of time.   The movie did drift into “Duel” and “The Terminator” territory once or twice, but if you’re going to borrow from elsewhere you may as well do so from the best.  It also felt like they’d finished making it and then thought, whoops, it’s not long enough and there’s not enough gratuitous violence in it either, so let’s add another 20 minutes and a load of blood and guts too. So watch out for the false ending and don’t get up to make a cup of tea until you see the credits.

Recommended for people who walk to the supermarket.  If you drive then don’t complain when you run into a psycho-shopper-hitchhiker from hell.  Statistically you’re probably more likely to get killed during the drive anyway.  In fact to be on the safe side, I recommend you use your local corner shop instead.  (I wrote this paragraph before I realised that they actually visit what looks more like a service station than a supermarket when they meet the nutter, but I was so pleased with it that I decided not to change it; it doesn’t take much to keep me happy…)

No cats or chainsaws and 1 decapitation.  That timeless classic,  ‘head in a bag’, used here for maximum impact.

Top badass moment?  Not once but twice, Jung-hyun has to deal with some pretty painful stuff being done to him by the psycho, but refuses to give in to protect his wife.  For an action-hero or superhero that would be tough enough, but this guy’s a writer, so you’ve got to big-up the respect for him.  You don’t need a huge gun to be a hero.

Say Yes at IMDB (5.5/10)