Something we don’t see too much anymore is a horror anthology where a series of unrelated, short horror stories are tied into a central dramatic narrative that ties them all together in some fashion. Earlier critically acclaimed examples of this type of film were TRILOGY OF TERROR with that cursed Zuni doll and those three CREEPSHOW movies which were a living “tongue in cheek” tribute to EC Comics. From South Korea comes another attempt at such a familiar horror sampler, a veritable assortment four different films released by six different directors, though truth I honestly didn’t recognize any of them nor any of the films they have previously directed. As usual let’s sit down for some horror stories and see if they are the most pleasing, critically approved type of awful.
First the wraparound story so crucial to an anthology such as this, a deranged young Asian man holds a pretty teenage schoolgirl captive at knifepoint in a run-down building and just about the time you think you have popped in an Impulse Cinema Pink Cinema Roman Porno by mistake it seems that his motives are refreshingly based on violent murder, not sex crimes. The girl is to help the boy sleep by telling him the scariest ghost stories that she can, if the stories aren’t scary enough, it seems that the only other thing that will allow him to sleep in peace is the spilling of fresh blood. The bound and helpless girl complies with this insane and heavily contrived plot device. Wouldn’t you? The following are the tales that she tells.
“DON’T ANSWER THE DOOR” Sun and Moon are two latch key kids who must somehow stay safe and refrain from letting in the bad thing while they wait for their mother to return home. This simple endeavour is complicated by the fact that their front door doesn’t lock properly, the peculiar delivery man with the blood stained gloves and the underlying, immediate fact that through no fault of their own, some horrible female figure, not of this plane of existence stalks them through the final frames of this film “GRUDGE/RINGU” style. The bulk of the running time was of this one was eaten up in it’s only a dream trickery, but the film did redeem itself by taking the time to really make you really sympathize with its “boogeyman” and the conditions that awoke her. This is a difficult feat indeed especially when its victims were innocent, harmless young children.
“ENDLESS FLIGHT” a killer of a stewardess is being transferred on an otherwise empty flight on his way to prison and wouldn’t you know it? He breaks loose and starts murdering his guards and all the airline attendants including both pilots until he is left on board with a single stewardess who cannot possibly land the plane. How will this end? Unexplainably, in mid-sentence without a conclusion just like THE SOPRANOS.
“SECRET RECIPE” Offers us a retelling of the ancient Korean Cinderella story between KongJwi and Patjwi. Here are two sisters who vie for the affections of a ”president” (who seemingly never ages) as well as his hand in marriage to become his sixth wife. While one daughter Gong-ji is his rightful fiancée, her sister Bak-ji schemes to seduce him away and even conscripts her mother to help. Can you really figure what’s going on here yet? Let me just say that while the plot of this one is abstract to the point of being absurd, the scenes of elaborate meals preparing prepared to represent murder scenes as well as the masterful symbolism of all decadent pleasure in this world as ornate, meticulously prepared mystery meat reminds me of a weekly episode of NBC’s HANNIBAL a rare example of a television programming I am in love with for the first time since AMERICAN GOTHIC (1996) There wasn’t much plot progression, but the style will make you salivate.
“AMBULENCE ON THE DEATH ZONE” a WALKING DEAD inspired ALIEN approved nightmare story of an ambulance crew that picks up a woman and her daughter Su-jin from an urban wasteland who may be affected with “the rat virus” which changes people into homicidal monsters (face it, they are zombies). Ingredients which prevent this from being a simple rescue are the fact that the world is running out of anti-virus, the fact that their “undead detecting” field testing kit does not show early detection, and let us not forget the fact that the on board doctor is a gun toting paranoid madman who thinks “EVERYONE” is a zombie. There were some tactical thrills and chills here before this ambulance ran out of road.
This was a fresh take on distant horror from a foreign land, and while all short films showed some degree of proficient technical skill, there wasn’t a single one in the bunch that was good enough for a stand-alone film. Also certain tired horror themes seemed to appear in every episode such as the dream sequence of something terrible happening and the inevitable bloody Asian woman with long unkempt hair clad in a long white dress who speaks in only a sudden jarring soundtrack screech at the most inopportune time and makes you reflexively scatter your box of milk duds to the celling as you soil yourself. Honestly, there were some good concepts here, and a varied allotment of themes, but almost all of the scares provided were just the same “gotcha/gross out” fare. I would have given anything to see some use of psychological terror. The directors all seemed smart enough to pull it off had they chose to and it would have amounted to a product that could have been watched more than once and enjoyed.
Extras include an exhaustive 12 page collectible booklet which tells something of the history of the horror anthology, an interview with some of the directors and a short dissertation on the better films of South Korean horror.