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Korean Horror Essential Collection

Into the Mirror (2003)       Acacia (2003)        The Wig (2005)


 

(aka "Into the Mirror" or "Geoul sokeuro" )

 

directed by Sung-ho Kim
South Korea 2003

 

The Korean horror film that inspired Alexandre Aja's MIRROR, INTO THE MIRROR tells the story of bizarre deaths occurring around the re-opening of a giant shopping mall following a mysterious fire. The first involves a shoplifting General Affairs division accountant whose reflection slashes its throat causing a similar wound on her. Her death is thought to be a suicide until it is discovered that she was left handed and the wound was inflicted from the right. Video of a second death shows no culprit and the victim was right handed while the wound was inflicted from the left. Chief Woo (the usual cop who left the force after a shooting incident that continues to torment him), given the head of security position by his mall chairman uncle, investigates internally but the friend of Woo's dead partner takes over the police investigation and does not seem interested in Woo's observations that the victims died in front of mirrors and thinks that the fact that one killing was down with a left hand and the other with a right suggests an ambidextrous killer. The victims seem to all have been connected with the General Affairs department who identified the unrecognizable body of one of their colleagues who perished in the fire. Woo, who has been sighting the dark figure of a young woman in mirrors and on CCTV throughout the store recognizes her as the dead woman but also learns that she had a twin sister who was a mental patient discharged after the fire and who believes that her sister is still alive in the mirror. Is she the killer or is it one of the many family members of the fire victims who were not compensated by the mall. As Woo starts to believe in the girl's story, another of the General Affairs accountants is murdered with the gun Woo was given by his uncle and is arrested for the murder. Did his reflection commit the murder?

It all boils down the usual Asian post-RINGU "find the place of interment of the ghost's body and expose the murderer so the ghost can rest in piece" but INTO THE MIRROR is well-executed despite the familiar and muddled plotting. Since the film is about mirrors, the production design is not only glutted with mirrors, other reflective surfaces, and plot points contained in surveillance camera footage, the cinematography also makes heavy use of symmetrical compositions featuring both set design, actors' costumes and their positions in the frame (including extras). The one convention it nicely defies is having Woo's former colleague turn out to be a decent guy who is conflicted over being bribed to clear up the investigation so the store can re-open in time and continues to pursue the investigation using the tangible clues Woo has supplied him with even though he doesn't buy the ghost and mirror aspect. There are visual references to artwork featuring mirrors including Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas and Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait is recreated in a photograph taken of the twins and the sight of the original inspires Woo to find out who took the photo. The inevitable disastrous re-opening of the store is over pretty quickly and is not the major setpiece the audience may have been expecting (especially with the many warnings that "if you re-open the store, something bad will happen" and the protestors whose signs call it a "death store") but the climax and thought-provoking if somewhat confusing ending make up for it. I haven't seen the American "remake" although it seems to differ vastly from the original so I can't say if it is that much superior (though I myself can only stand so much of a shouting Keifer Sutherland) but INTO THE MIRROR should be worth seeking out on its own terms.

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Theatrical Release: 14 August 2003 (South Korea)

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DVD Review: Palisades Tartan (Korean Horror Essential Collection) - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Palisades Tartan

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:53:08
Video

1.75:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.74 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Korean DTS; Korean Dolby Digital 5.1; Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Palisades Tartan

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.75:1

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by director Sung-ho Kim (in Korean with English subtitles)
• Theatrical Trailer (4:3; 2:27)

DVD Release Date: 26 October 2009
Double Sized Amaray

Chapters 16

 

Comments

Originally released by Tartan UK as a two disc set reproducing the behind the scenes, deleted scenes, and music video from the now OOP Korean R3 two disc (subtitling the director commentary but dropping a second commentary track along with some short films by the director, interviews, storyboard-to-film comparisons, and a 94 page booklet), INTO THE MIRROR is available again from Palisades Tartan who have repackaged it in the box set KOREAN HORROR ESSENTIAL COLLECTION. Unfortunately, they have only included the first disc containing the feature, commentary, and trailer (the disc face itself says "Disc 1" and is obviously old stock as it only features the Tartan logo rather than the Palisades Tartan one). The bitrate for the feature is consistently high but as with the Tartan 2 disc, the feature has been converted from NTSC to PAL resulting in ghosting and interlace artifacts as well as some jerky pans (not just the intentional motion control ones on view) and the image is soft from being resized from 720x480 NTSC to 720x576 PAL. Korean DTS, Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 stereo downmixes are all very effective with the music score well-balanced amidst the dialogue and sound effects enough to call attention to itself without overwhelming the presentation. ACACIA (previously reviewed by Henrik Sylow HERE is also a NTSC-PAL transfer (with the resulting ghosting) featuring a five part behind-the-scenes featurette but lacking the audio commentary present on Tartan's R1 DVD. Likewise THE WIG is a NTSC-PAL transfer and is the only barebones release in the package. It does not have a DTS track despite the mention on the slipcover and case. The R3 release has a DTS track but only has English subtitles for the film. The R1 features the R3 behind the scenes, making-of, and special effects featurettes but drops the commentary.

The KOREAN HORROR ESSENTIAL COLLECTION is imperfect in terms of its NTSC-PAL transfers and lack of some extras (but that was true of the original releases in the case of THE WIG and ACACIA) but it may prove an attractive purchase for having all three films together for a low price and affording most viewers the opportunity to see INTO THE MIRROR which was out of print before the release of its remake (the only other English-friendly in-print edition is a barebones Chinese release).

 - Eric Cotenas

 



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directed by Ki-hyeong Park
South Korea 2003

 

Unable to conceive a child on their own, teacher Mi-sook (Shim Hye-jin) and her husband decide to adopt. Mi-sook takes a liking to Lee Jin-sung (Moon Woo-bin) who demonstrates a precocious artistic ability (his entry in an exhibit of children's artwork is a reproduction of Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream"). When they bring the boy home, he becomes fascinated with a dead Acacia tree in their backyard which he refers to as "mother." When Mi-sook unexpectedly becomes pregnant and gives birth, Lee Jin-sung runs away and never returns. Did his disappearance have to do with the sickly neighbor girl Min-jee (Jung Na-yoon) who claims to be a vampire? And why does the Acacia tree suddenly start to bloom and various characters meet expected mysterious deaths? The film starts out well with a nicely managed set up and deftly handled tensions between the mother and adopted child (the various early troublesome incidents could very well be those of a child finding it difficult to adjust) and his disappearance half-way through is disconcerting but once the supernatural element comes in full force it is all rather perfunctory. The the resolution is quite sad (though not completely unexpected) and it justifies the supernatural happenings but it is unfortunate that the ghostly happenings are so familiar because the film certainly doesn't smack of being a tired genre effort.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 17 October 2003 (South Korea)

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DVD Review: Palisades Tartan (Korean Horror Essential Collection) - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

Palisades Tartan

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:42:52
Video

2.34:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.82 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Korean DTS; Korean Dolby Digital 5.1; Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Palisades Tartan

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.34:1

Edition Details:
• Making-of Featurette
• • Action and Cut (4:3; 5:12)
• • The World in the Movie (4:3; 3:52)
• • About the Director (4:3; 2:39)
• • Cast Interviews (4:3; 5:02)
• • Interview with the Director (4:3; 4:47)
• Trailer (4:3; 1:59)

DVD Release Date:
Double Size Amaray

Chapters 16

 



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(aka "The Wig" or "Gabal" )

 

directed by Shin-yeon Won
South Korea 2005

 

Su-hyeon (Min-seo Chae) is a young woman who is dying from leukemia. Her sister Ji-hyeon (Seon Yu), whose vocal chords were damaged in a car accident following her being dumped by her fiance, gifts her with a long wig. Not only Su-hyeon's behavior starts to change when she puts on the wig (as is wont to happen when the wig is made from a dead person's hair) but her leukemia seems to have disappeared and she only suffers attacks when she takes the wig off (such as when Ji-hyeon's friend borrows it and promptly kills her cheating husband and herself). Su-hyeon has also developed a fatal attraction to Ji-hyeon's former fiance that Ji-hyeon discovers may have something to do with wig's deceased donor. THE WIG is a frustrating Asian post-RINGU horror film. It contains all the tropes of that sub-genre (the association of long, flowing hair with madness, mirrors, reflective surfaces or photographs that reveal supernatural activity invisible to the human eye, one-sided cellphone conversations, a greater fear of loneliness than of death) and it has a nicely managed genuinely heart-string-tugging initial set up that leads to a disjointed middle. The convoluted explanation is slapped together in a montage that features not only footage that is recognizable as flashback material as well as shots and dialogue that seem more like they were part of cut scenes as they seem to hark back for emphasis but that doesn't work if the scene wasn't there in the first place (likewise, Ji-hyeon's morose fiancÚ figures heavily into the latter half of the film but is barely introduced earlier). The explanation would have perhaps been better left out or made less convoluted as some of Su-hyeon's odd and inconsistent behavior would be believable as that of a girl who has been told she's cured but knows inside that she's dying as well as Ji-hyeon's reactions as that of a woman who has been abandoned by her fiancÚ and is about to lose her sister as well (her muteness isolates her further). Instead, the explanation is thrown in quickly to give us the usual possession/revenge climax that is then followed tragic finale (which also would have worked without the previous forty-minutes or so of nonsense - the latter part of the second act and most of the third act - had the film favored a more restrained approach and the film seems to want to have it both ways with another belabored possibly rational explanation that it too could have done without). As such, the film wastes the excellent lead performances of Min-seo Chae and especially Seon Yu.

Eric Cotenas

Theatrical Release: 12 August 2005 (South Korea)

Reviews       More Reviews      DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Palisades Tartan (Korean Horror Essential Collection) - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

Palisades Tartan

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:42:44
Video

1.84:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.5 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Korean Dolby Digital 5.1; Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Palisades Tartan

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.84:1

Edition Details:
• none

DVD Release Date:
Double Sized Amaray

Chapters 16

 



DVD Menus
 

 


Screen Captures


Subtitle sample

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution

Palisades Tartan

Region 2 - PAL




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