MKC's Most Anticipated Korean Films of 2016 MKC's Top 10 Korean Films of 2015 Busan 2015 Review: ALONE Winds Its Mystery Through the Backstreets of Seoul Busan 2015 Review: VETERAN MKC's Top 10 Korean Films of 2014

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cinderella (2006)

I have not seen a great deal of Korean horror films and this is something I very much want to amend as out of what I've seen, there are a number that I love: Memento Mori (1999), Tell Me Something (1999), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), Bedevilled (2010); and many that I am quite fond of: Whispering Corridors (1998), Into the Mirror (2003), R-Point (2004), and Princess Aurora (2005). The first film that fell into my lap after making this recent, arbitrary decision was Cinderella (2006), a plastic surgery psychological horror from a director previously known for softcore erotica. I knew nothing about it going in but was intrigued by the setting, initially. The film has a few interesting ideas but it’s fatal flaw and what sets it apart from other Korean horror films, in a bad way, is its complete lack of technical proficiency and misuse, or perhaps misunderstanding, of horror conventions. The film isn’t scary, doesn’t look good, and worse is hard to follow, despite a fairly straightforward narrative.

Young girl on the operating table
Plastic surgery is a hut button issue in Korea; its soaring popularity is even a national source of tourism, which is now promoted by the government. Many worry what kind of values this kind of aesthetic and vain obsession instills in young and insecure women. Korean entertainment forums and message boards across the web are replete with speculation as to which actresses have had work done, it is also frequently mentioned in the news. Thus it seems only natural that this topic would transition to cinema and it did, making a big splash in 2006 with at least 3 major films that I can think of: Kim Di-kuk gaves us Time which was probably the film that dealt with the topic in the most damning fashion; 200 Pounds Beauty was the third highest grossing film of the year, it acknowledged the issue in a lighthearted fashion but didn't really make draw any conclusions; finally, of course, is Cinderella, which given how well the subject matter should lend itself to a psychological horror, strikes me as a missed opportunity.

Horrific, or ludicrous?
Martin Cleary over at New Korean Cinema makes a good point in his review. Advertising for Korean horrors, or most Korean films for that matter, always looks sublime and promises a lot. There are a number of highly-varnished Korean films that match this marketing but films that don't can be a real let down. Cinderella suffers from this comparison, the posters look great, full of vivid, freaky (and well photoshopped) imagery that the film simply doesn't deliver on. One scene in the film, probably the only one that people will remember, tries to capture this grotesque imagery in an ill-advised art classroom sequence where two young girls carve each others faces in a trance. It already sounds silly, but in its execution it is evenmore ridiculous than you could imagine.

Cinderella is a definite misfire and I don't think that director Bong Man-dae is someone worth looking out for. I'm not sure what his intentions were at the outset: the film isn't scary so it doesn't constitute the central appeal of horror; it could be interpreted as a psychological thriller but it doesn't really explore this territory adequately; it's possible, as other people have mentioned, that he was paying homage (read ripping off) Japanese horror films like Dark Water (2002), but with no new twist, observation, and such a lack of immaculate mise-en-scene, which we have come to expect from Korean cinema, it's hard to understand who thought this was a good idea. Ultimately, I was bored by the film, the story was less and less engaging as it wore on, the finale fell flat, and I wasn't able to take anything away from it. Only for die-hard Korean horror fans (and I know there are a few of you out there)!

No comments:

Post a Comment