Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Monstruous Corpse (괴시) (1980)

Director Gang Beom-gu has an impressive background of dramas, action, crime, war movies and even anti-communist features. But he’s perhaps more famous for having co-directed the unofficial sequel of Game of Death, also called Tower of Death 2 with the legendary Hwang Jang Lee and choreographed by Yuen Woo-ping. So right after that big co-production, Gang Beom-gu directed this little unique gem of Korean horror cinema: Goesi (A Monstruous Corpse), with little financial help. The result is a rather interesting approach to the zombie genre but at the same time, suffers from being too much similar with the 1974 classic, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. Veteran actor Park Am (Mandala, Hunting for Idiots, Iodo and Martyrs to name a few) can be seen as the police chief and gives his usual strong and convincing performance. That said, Goesi has all the elements of the typical horror film made at time in Europe, which is characterized by low key lighting with vivid colors, moody soundtrack and a terrified female protagonist who just can’t run away from the zombies who try to attack her. Speaking of zombies, this was Korea’s very first attempt at the genre.
The story revolves around 2 young people who met each other on a countryside road. Kang Myung was hitchhiking and was picked up by Su-ji on her way to see her brother-in-law. But when she arrives at her destination they find Su-ji’s brother-in-law dead. Soon the police start to suspect Kang Myung. Shocked and skeptical about the events, the dynamic duo decides to search the surrounding area. Kang Myung discovers that scientists are working at a lab with a supersonic transmitter. Soon, more strange things start to happen in the nearby forest. After looking around all day, Kang Myung and Su-ji decide to do further investigation in an old abandoned house where they are suddenly attacked by a horde of undead. Fans of gore elements easily found in Italian or other European productions will no doubt be slightly let down, but if you're in it for more than striking visuals, there's lots of enjoyment to be found here. Of course, Korean cinema is perhaps one of the fastest changing cinema industry I’ve ever seen, which is a direct reflection of their society. You can compare for example, monster movies such as The Flying monster (Bicheongoesu) with the Host and there is only 20 years between the 2, but visually and technically it looks more like 40! That’s what Korean cinema is all about, once you dig in the past you might find some movies that didn’t seem much interesting but in their social and political context they take a whole new dimension and therefore, are really enjoyable and fascinating.
Goesi (Goeshi)

Gang Beom-gu

Yu Gwang-ok
Park Am
Sin Chan-il


Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Flying Monster (비천괴수) (1984)

 The Flying Monster is one good example of Korea’s attempt at the “Kaiju” genre back in the 80’s. Sadly the genre as died since Shin Hyun-ray last 2 films (Yonggari and D-War) which were epic failures. The Flying Monster is sheer fun and cheese, since back in the days everything had to be made with the traditional “man in the rubber suit”, so this movie has its laughable moments but also has a strong dramatic sub-plot to it (which is common to Korean productions). Of course the effects are dated and the scenario is fairly poor but you get to see some full scale battles mixed with ambitious city destruction which at the same time becomes a bit confusing since many monsters (some from the Ultraman series and others like a giant dragon from the Taiwanese production Monster from the Sea) appear at some point and start destroying everything with no rational explanation for it.
After Dr. Kim is gone missing trying to find dinosaurs traces, the young and pretty reporter Kang Ok-hi is sent by her chief editor to investigate on Dr. Kim's new theory. She disguises as a maid and searches Dr. Kim’s house to steal his thesis. During the day, Dr. Kim investigates about some archeological work nearby the coast and manages to discover dinosaurs footprints. Suddenly, a mysterious giant bird (who looks like a prehistoric bird with a chicken head) appears and some disastrous incidents occur one after another. Dr. Kim believes that the only way to prevent those is by destroying the bird’s eggs. He then starts to search for the eggs as new monsters appear and rampage the nearby cities.
Needless to say this was an attempt at a big comeback to the giant monster genre since the late 60’s but seems to have somehow failed at the box office. However, The Flying monster gained a cult status among the Korean sci-fi genre, since most of the similar production of that era were aimed at children and they were featuring a strong sense of comedy which is not a characteristic of The Flying Monster. In general, I must admit that this movie has a good suspense and some good ol’ special effects which must have been so much fun on the big screen back in the days.

Kim Jung-yong
Kim Ki-ju
Nam Hye-gyeong
Kim Da-hye


Suddenly in the Dark (깊은밤 갑자기) (1981)

Many Korean horror films like to depict stories about the Chosun Dynasty or other historical periods, but very few are about contemporary horror elements. Go Yeong-nam’s “Suddenly in Dark Night” is one good example of a strong and suspenseful horror story mixing oneirism and haunting traditional grudge. Having enjoyed a very good reception from critics and public upon it release, the story follow a couple in the downward spiral of their couple as a young and mysterious lady spend the holidays with them.
Mr. Kang is a leading specialist in Biology. One night he goes into some caves to take pictures of Insects and finds a rare breed of butterflies. The next day, he organizes a meeting with his friends to show them his discovery. The same night Kang’s wife, Sun-hi, starts to experience weird visions of strange wooden doll.
The couple than decide to go on vacation to their countryside house and they bring along the young, beautiful and innocent looking Mi-ok. However later that day, Sun-hi finds the same doll in Mi-ok’s belongings. That starts to make her feel strange and have a mixed feeling about the young lady, imagining her having a secret affair with her husband or ever perceive Mi-ok’s careless mind about chores as deliberate intentions that could lead to a fatal accident. Pushed on the edge of insanity after Kang refuse to believe that Mi-ok is a dangerous threat, Sun-hi decides to take actions against Mi-ok by killing her. But this only makes matters worse since the wooden doll is out for revenge.
The plot is somehow simple at first but have a sudden switch in halfway through, which make this film quite interesting. The acting is particularly good and gets even better towards the last quarter of the movie when Sun-hi totally turns mad. Let’s not forget about the unique soundtrack that mixes very well with the dream-like visual effects of hallucination (reminded me of some late 70’s Italian soundtracks). Despite a slow start, “Suddenly in the Dark” is a very entertaining and mysterious film from Go Yeong-nam. Another strong entry in South Korea’s horror movie repertoire.
Gip-eun bam gabjagi

Go Yeong-nam
Kim Young-ae
Yoon Il-bong
Lee Gi-seon