Saturday, October 1, 2011


Directed by Chan-wook Park
2009. Rated R, 133 minutes.
Kung-ho Song
Ok-bin Kim
Hae-sook Kim
Ha-kyun Shin
In-hwan Park
Dal-su Oh
Young-chang Song

Sang-hyun (Kang-ho Song) is a priest who volunteers for a medical experiment in hopes of helping to find a cure for the fatal Emmanuel Virus. The experiment fails and infects him with the disease. An emergency blood transfusion saves his life but transforms him into a vampire. Director Chan-Wook’s gifts for telling twisted tales is on full display, here. The film never rushes, letting the story and the characters develop. As it becomes creepier and more incredible it slides in the story of a love forbidden in more ways than one. As the object of our priest’s desire Tae-ju, Ok-bin Kim is simply fantastic and steals every scene starting with the first time we meet her. The script calls for her to go from a stereotypically meek Asian housewife, albeit one not particularly in love with her husband, to domineering and bloodthirsty. She is perfect every step of the way and really adds “umph” to the bittersweet ending. Finally, the movie is beautifully shot. Like the best of Chan-Wook, it’s almost like looking at a series of elegant still shots occasionally splattered with magnificent gushes of blood.

Where did this vampiric blood come from? The priest wonders the same, aloud, once or twice but that’s all we get. The simple fact of his infection implies there are more vampires out there but we never see any. Showing us one, or more, could have set up an intriguing battle of good and evil, further tormenting our reluctant bloodsucker. The movie’s meticulous storytelling draws us into a fantastic world and works hard to ensure our suspension of disbelief. The problem is we’re snapped back to reality by some shoddy cgi whenever our vampires are shown performing great feats from a distance. It’s more than a bit jarring, especially considering there are shots of the priest jumping from a building with the camera really close to him that work much better.

It’s a wonderfully twisted entry into the vampire canon. Park Chan-Wook delivers another masterpiece of the macabre. Though there is plenty of disturbing imagery and somewhat masochistic sex, both help tell the story and don’t feel gratuitous. This makes it a decidedly adult venture into the world of the undead. That means while it is a love story involving vampires, don’t bother if you’re in the Twilight target audience. If you do, bring your reading glasses unless you’re fluent in Korean.

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