By Pierce Conran
Found footage horror and digital age social themes combine to disastrous effect in the lamentable and stunningly offensive Live TV, a midnight film at Busan that'll make you wish you'd turned in early.
A pair of chauvinistic jackasses record their exploits one evening as they seek out a target to bring back to a motel. The recording is being broadcast live on the internet and they goad viewers into spreading word of the show by acting like delinquent brats and treating women like trash. They eventually do find a girl that seems almost giddy at the prospect of being tag-teamed live by a pair of wealthy and misogynistic knuckleheads and together make their way to an out of the way motel with an eery vibe.
In the room, it doesn't take long for the men to start ripping off her clothes, slapping her around and raping her in a fit of hysterics. When one of the men gets a little too rough, it's revealed that the girl is acting but soon things take a real turn for the worse when a prolific murderer makes his presence known.
Live TV is clearly trying to get a reaction out of its audience and succeeds in doing so but for all the wrong reasons. It's not entirely clear whether this film can be seen as straight exploitation or a message about rampant misogyny but it's undeniably shocking. Given how appalling the fake rape scene is and the horrific representation of young women as hungry sluts, the former is bad enough but if it's the latter (and I have a sinking feeling that it is) that makes it much, much worse, since that would mean that Live TV is a film about misogyny made by oblivious bigots.
Rape is always upsetting and its casual depiction here even more so but what makes it truly reprehensible is the fact that the girls in this narrative are so willing to be degraded. It's male fantasy brought to a dangerous extreme and shows disturbingly callous disregard for women to boot.
If we look past the film's rampant sexism and depravity, and that's all but impossible to do, Live TV is also a textbook example of truly horrid filmmaking. Found footage horror has many detractors and here is a film that highlights all their complaints, and then some. Aside from the incessantly shaky footage and the infuriating need to have characters offer glib remarks (or sexist slurs in this case) to the camera, the film grates on the nerves with inserted technical glitches and a back half that almost exclusively features characters whispering as they tippy-toe through endless dark corridors.
Live TV was directed by Kim Sun-ung and Son Kwang-soo, who has previously written K-horrors such as Cinderella (2007). Son is also a professor lecturing on multimedia in Seoul so we can assume that the film is largely a commentary on the impact of communication in modern Korea. However, for an astute discussion on that topic, watch the far superior Socialphobia (also playing at BIFF) instead. And if all you want are a few good scares, I'm sorry to tell you that Live TV is about as scary as a walk in the park, just more tedious and offensive.
This review originally appeared on Twitchfilm.com
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