Hyeun-su is an art student who lives in an apartment with her mother, who is a well-renowned plastic surgeon working in the same building. After some of Hyeun-su’s friends undergo surgery at the hands of her mother, they start to get strange visions of a longhaired ghostly female figure, & die after apparently performing surgery on their own faces. Is the key to these strange events somehow related to Hyeun-su’s past?
Not really very closely related to the story from which it takes its name (at a push, is the surgeon the fairy Godmother, who makes Cinderella beautiful for the ball?), this is yet another example of the longhaired female ghost genre that the Asian market seems to have a limitless thirst for. Over-familiar it may be, but the figure is an undeniably unsettling one, & the new Korean film ‘Cinderella’ gets enough mileage out of it to stop it from being a total wash-out, although as a less-effective variant on the theme than ‘One Missed Call’ & ‘Phone’, it must rank as one for fans of this subgenre only.
Director Bong Man-dae here makes his second film, after making his name in soft-core porn. He makes a pretty reasonable first of it, delivering a good-looking film (as is often the case with Korean films – credit here to cinematographer Kim Hyun-tae), which does deliver some moody atmosphere, & which boasts some strong performances. Sadly, the editing & uneven scripting means that too often scenes don’t flow together, leaving the film lacking coherence, narrative drive & taking more effort to follow than it real needs to. Thankfully, after a somewhat generic first half (highlight of which must be the scene of two students merrily carving each others faces up), the film comes into focus rather more in the second half, as it moves into more melodramatic territory & gets into the nitty gritty of a beautifully twisted back-story. However, despite the often-gloomy atmosphere, actual frights are pretty thin on the ground & the narrative twists can’t draw attention away from the gaping plot holes. The film may draw some comparisons to ‘Tale of Two Sisters’ in its needlessly drawn-out climax, but whereas that film succeeded for me with its sustained creepy imagery, the lack of real tension in ‘Cinderella’ makes it’s plodding merely wearing.
Overall, ‘Cinderella’ is a thoroughly professional piece of work, stylishly put together & which boasts a couple of creepy moments on top of a psychologically intriguing back-story. Despite that, it still manages to deliver little that is genuinely new, & over familiarity leaves it an inessential & fairly forgettable entry in an over-populated subgenre, for young-‘uns & the die-hards only.
The Korean R3 DVD from enterone features a good-looking anamorphic widescreen transfer, with Korean Dolby 5.1 audio & Korean or English subtitles. Sadly, the special features are Korean language only, a problem for the “making of” & interview, if not the music video or trailers. Still, the cardboard slipcase looks rather nice.