Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Horror Stories | 무서운 이야기 [ Movie Review ] ★★★

Horror Stories 무서운 이야기
"If you want to be alive, then tell me... Horror Stories 무서운 이야기"

The Pitch

It's hard to find good horror movies lately. After the disappointing introduction to Paranormal Activity franchise, the crave for a good eerie and sensible scary movie still lingers. The trailer for the Korean omnibus of short horror movie segments (that befittingly titled) Horror Stories seems to be a promising cure for the Paranormal Activity 4 hangover.

The setup for the main frame narrative reminded me of One Thousand and One Nights / Arabian Nights. A female protagonist has to resort to telling stories to stay alive. The fable setup might just work in a horror movie.

Plus I am also a fan of the recent Thailand horror movies that were structured in similar omnibus format. Movies like Four, 4bia and it's sequel Phobia 2 remained etched in the mind long after the credits rolled. They were testaments that some good horror stories are most effective when it's short and sweet. They are not constrained in feature length movie time frame and they branch out in different areas of creativity.

Personally, I can't wait to see what the Koreans have to offer with their omnibus of horror stories and Thanks to InCinemas, I will be watching this movie a day before it even sneaks in Singapore.

The Plot

A high school girl woke up a strange place with her hands tied up. She realized that she been kidnapped by a sadistic looking guy. Her kidnapper informs her that "horror stories" chill his blood and that will enable him to go to sleep. If she does not put him to "sleep", he will requires blood to soothe him.

Terrified, the high school girl started to tell four horror stories and they are "Don't Answer to the Door", "Endless Flight", "Secret Recipe" and "Ambulance on the Death Zone".

In "Don't Answer to the Door", Sun-Yi and Moon Yi are two young Korean kids who had just finished their English class. While their English teacher was sending them home, Sun-Yi caught a disturbing news of a female worker who set herself on fire to protest against unfair job termination. When they reached home, their single mom told them that she is expecting a parcel. But as no adults were around, they were supposed to inform the deliveryman to leave the parcel at the door. After the deliveryman made the drop off, Sun-Yi opened the door to collect the parcel but absentmindedly forgotten to closed the door properly. A small mistake resulted in a night of fright for the two kids ... imaginary or not.

The second tale, "Endless Flight" takes place on a plane flying at an altitude of 30,000 meters. A serial killer had just been caught and was being escorted back to the city on a plane. The flight crew felt uneasy about this 50 minutes flight but with two police officers on board, they proceed with their duty. Before taking off, the senior pilot realized that the last murdered victim was a stewardess and she was scheduled to be working on this flight. Needless to say, the serial killer managed to escape and it became a game of survival on a plane.

In the third story, "Secret Recipe" is a modern twisted take on the Cinderella story. Gong Ji will be getting married with the rich and surprisingly youthful company president soon. Her step mother and step sister Bak Ji scheme to steal her sister's future husband before the wedding. Bak Ji went to the extreme of having facial surgery to look like Gong Ji. While the step sisters tried to outwit each other for the president's affection, they could never anticipate what the president has in store for the lucky bride-to-be or the secret to his youthfulness.

Last but not least, "Ambulance on the Death Zone" is basically a story about five survivors in a city that been plagued by outbreak of zombie virus.  A doctor and a nurse answer an emergency call in the infected city. Together with an ambulance driver, they rescue a mother and her unconscious daughter from the virus spreading rats and zombies. But as they make their way back to the safe zone, the doctor started to suspect that the unconscious little girl might have been inflected by the zombie virus.

The Perspective 

Horror Stories 무서운 이야기 was a mixed bag of horror movie. One of the things that I didn't like about this omnibus in general was the usage of loud sound to generate fear. It was like if we can't frighten you with jump scares, we are going to assault your ears till you flinch. The other problem with Horror Stories was that they used the dream sequences too many times. All four segments contained a dream sequence and they were basically a pointless detour to chalk up jump scares for this movie. In other words, they were trying a little too hard to be scary and the results were some cheap scares that didn't work for me.

The main framing narrative was rather uneven in execution. The performance of the prey and predator was adequately delivered but there wasn't any impressive revelation to elevate to framing narrative into something memorable (e.g The Twilight Zone movie). The reason for the horror stories (the kidnapper wanted horror stories so that he could fall asleep) could also come back and bite the ass of the filmmakers if one was to not like this omnibus of horror. The respective stories were pretty uneven too. Some were good and some were pretty bland. Here are the breakdown for each segments in Horror Stories.

"Don't Answer to the Door" had a pretty bland first half. It felt like it was going to be a meaningless horror story from the kids' terrified perspective of being home alone. It overly dramatize ordinary  events such as a deliveryman making a drop into a horror event. After a few false jump scares, it's hard to feel for this two overly imaginative kids. What redeem this segment was the unexpected turn of events when it escalate to the film's climatic revelation. It validated the previous silly scares and made some sense to why the kids had to go through such horrifying haunting.

"Endless Flight" was the most disappointing bits in Horror Stories. There was so much potential for  the setup of a serial killer on board a plane. His last victim was a stewardess who was scheduled for the same flight and it was all setup for a delightful confrontation between the relentless killer and the vengeful ghost. A showdown of determination, guts and abilities. But what we got here was mainly a killer who wreck havoc on a plane and a female stewardess trying to survive this 50 minutes flight. The ghost of the dead stewardess was just standing around and not doing much basically. The killer also attacked some of the flight crew in the most unrealistic ways. To make things worse, they didn't  even bother to end the segment properly.

"Secret Recipe" did somewhat redeem this horror series after the dismal second segment. It was a rather delightful absurd segment that not based in reality (i.e you can't question this segment with common sense and you just have to go with the flow). It's a slasher segment that serves as a cautionary tale for the "gold digger" mentality.  Sadistic amusement where one could be delighted by how the money minded sisters are rushing recklessly into something that they don't truly comprehend and yet feel disgusted by the eventual situation that they gotten themselves in. "Secret Recipe" was a vile enjoyment for me.  

"Ambulance on the Death Zone" was my faveourite segment in Horror Stories. It was simple and effective. Five different personalities handling a potential crisis at hand and the tension from within was more intense than the zombies problems that they were facing. I like how this segment kept the audience guessing whether was the unconscious girl infected or not and how it invokes the ominous feeling of "the path to hell is paved with good intention". I have seen quite a few zombie movies and this segment makes a good entry to the zombie genre.

Overall, there were more hits than misses in this anthology of horror stories. It's definitely better than Paranormal Activity 4 but it wasn't really that good as compared to the Thai's 4bia, Phobia 2 and Four. Horror Stories is still a decent movie for the Halloween period and I would recommend it.

Rating: ***

Link to Asianwiki Page for Horror Stories
Link to Page for Horror Stories

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