Some day, Im Pil-sung is going to make a really great movie. ANTARCTIC JOURNAL, his first film, was not. And, sad to say, HANSEL & GRETEL is not one either.
The story is simple enough (and I will try to avoid spoilers). Eun-su (Cheon Jeong-myeong) is driving through the countryside, on his way to meet his mother, when he gets into a car accident. His is thrown from the car and passes out. When he wakes up, there is a girl with a red cloak and a lamp who guides him to her house in the forest.
The girl's house and family are very odd and unnatural. Lots of candy and sweet food, even though no one does any baking. Lots of bright colors and strange designs. And there are apparently some strange, nasty things that go bump in the night.
Eun-su also soon discovers that he cannot get away; there is no way out of the forest. After a couple of days, the kids' parents disappear, to be replaced by a more malevolent fellow. Gradually the mystery is revealed, along with plenty of blood and general ickiness.
The good? Well, the designs are the usual bright and freaky stuff we always expect from Ryu Seong-hee (OLDBOY, I'M A CYBORG BUT THAT'S OKAY, THE HOST). And there are parts (especially in the middle) where the surrealism is interesting and promising.
Unfortunately, the bad far outweighs the good. The story is too odd to be taken seriously as a drama, but not fantastic enough to be interesting in it's own right. Eun-su is not a very interesting character and does not draw you in at all. The psychology underlying the surreal story is puddle deep. Furthermore, the characters keep saying the same things over and over again... Very annoying.
In addition, like all Korean horror movies, a large chunk of the second half is filled with endless explaining and crying and explaining and crying. Ugh. Why do the bad, evil people at the heart of the story do the things they do? Who cares... they are just bad and evil. No nuance.
Which is too bad. I like Im. I think he is underrated. Considering how tepid and similar far too many Korean movies were these days, it is great to see someone trying to do something different and off-beat. I think he was trying to do something like PAN'S LABYRINTH, but Im's story is horribly underdeveloped.
If you are interested in seeing more of the film (despite my mean review), the movie trailer is at Youtube. You can also see the trailer at the movie's official website here.