Contrary to certain descriptions, Record is not a supernatural thriller. In fact, if I had to give this movie a catchy tagline, it would be “Korea’s answer to I Know What You Did Last Summer.” Now that I have generalized the plot for you, we can all go home. Uh…. maybe not.
Record is actually a very well thought out movie with very few snags. The premise revolves around a tight knit group of friends who want to play a joke on one of their classmates that is the equivalent of Bubble Boy. The plan: Bring “Mask Boy” back to one of the girl’s summer homes and scare the ever living shit out of him whilst recording it on digital video. Sounds like a good time, no? So the two girls invite Mask Boy up to the summer home and bait him into thinking it’s going to be an intimate study session. However, before Mr. SARS and the Korean hotties can get it on, a group of thugs burst into the house and begin beating the shit out of everyone. They single out Mask Boy and tie him to the bed dominatrix style. One of the thugs jumps on Mask Boy and begins plunging what is supposed to be a fake knife into his chest repeatedly. Ignoring the poor lads cries to stop, the thug keeps on thrusting for a good three minutes. After everyone gets a rouse, the thug leaps off and unmasks, showing the girls and Mask Boy that it was in fact Hyung-Jun, one of the boys in the group. The other two thugs unmask and congratulate themselves on a joke well done. But wait…….. Mask Boy isn’t moving or breathing and Hyung-Jun is holding a real knife!
After a lengthy freak out session, the group lobbies different ways in which they can dispose of the body without anyone finding out. After TOSSING A COIN (!!) the group decides that burning the corpse with the videotape of the murder is the way to go. So the boys dig a shallow grave near the edge of a cliff and dump Mask Boy’s body in. Hyung-Jun douses the body in gasoline and they light him up. But wait! Mask Boy lets out a horrible shriek and leaps out of the grave, ultimately throwing himself off the cliff and into the ocean. Mortified, the group flees and pledges never to reveal the truth to another living soul.
Cut to a year later, where the group is reflecting on their prank gone awry. Mask Boy’s teacher that always protected him is in emotional disarray, while Mask Boy’s sister is approaching all students in an effort to find her brother. Coincidentally, each member of the group is being stalked by a person in a red parka, wearing the same SARS mask as the boy that they killed. In true slasher film fashion, each member of the group is systematically eliminated until the movie’s climax, when the truth behind the murders unfolds.
For such a basic and sometimes predictable plot, Record delivers in ways that I Know What You Did Last Summer could not. The killer initially stalks each victim, making them aware of his presence, and just when you think that a member of the group is done for, they pop up in the next scene creating more tension. Also, Record does not eliminate the possibility of suspects by having key characters murdered by the killer. Instead, all possibilities for the culprit are left open until the end scenes, where the viewer can eliminate all possible choices and come to their own conclusion. Record also delivers a solid ending comparable to the Blair Witch Project, where the last scenes are shot with a camcorder, leaving the viewer with a first person “experience” of the final events.
To me, Record was a refreshing experience because, for once Asian cinema improves on American horror, not vice versa. I’m getting kind of tired of reading about the American remakes of The Eye, Dark Water and even The Ring. It’s also a nice break from the horde of ghost story and zombie movies that countries like Japan and China have been flooding our markets with over the past 5 years. So pack away the camcorder, grab yourself a quality VCD, and please, if you’re going to set someone on fire, at least make sure they’re dead first.