Monday 10 December 2007

Nightmare (2000) Byeong-ki Ahn

Two years ago, a mortician sews shut the eyes of a young dead college girl, because they won't close otherwise. Once he pushes her back into the rack, her eyes open splitting the stitches. It's a really cool image to start a movie. She's Lee Kyung-ah and there's plenty of mystery about her death, even though she apparently committed suicide by jumping off a building. The return of Sun-ae from a few years in the States provides the spark for seven friends to revisit the incident, generally through memories of the past or hallucinations of Kyung-ah following them around.

The first half of the film is really confusing. It jumps around in time a lot and it's hard to work out where things fit into the real timeline of events. About halfway through it becomes clearer and we can start to understand just how all these friends fit together and why. Once we have that much, the whole vengeful ghost thing begins to make far more sense even though there are plenty of alternative possibilities thrown in there to keep us guessing. The ending is also very cool.

I don't know any of the cast, being relatively new to South Korean horror, or K-Horror in response to the Japanese J-Horror. I'm learning though, mostly courtesy of the Sundance Channel, about directors like Chan-wook Park, Ki-hyeong Park and here Byeong-ki ahn who has four films to his credit, this being the first. The rest are Phone, Ouija Board and APT. I have a bunch more on the DVR ready to go, including two thirds of Chan-wook Park's Vengeance trilogy.

I really enjoyed the way this film looks, the impactful scenes being artfully done well beyond the grue. Whether this is the direction or the cinematography of Seok-hyeon Lee, I honestly don't know, but it looks very good indeed. It's partly the angles, partly the camera movements, partly the way certain scenes are set up. The underwater scene in the swimming pool is startling. My problem is in the editing, as it really invites an immediate reviewing just to help make sense of everything. It doesn't help that the character who shoots all the crucial back stories on video manages to somehow get shots from every awesome angle, possible and impossible.

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