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Horror no longer guarantees a summer hit : ‘The Mimic,’ is only film bringing thrills to theaters this season

Aug 10,2017
From left to right are scenes from “The Mimic” (2017), “R-Point” (2004), “Whispering Corridors” (1998). [NEXT ENTERTAINMENT WORLD, CINEMA SERVICE]
Summer has traditionally been the season for the most frightening movies of the year to hit theaters. Some of Korea’s most famous horror movies like “A Tale of Two Sisters” (2003), “R-Point” (2004) and “Whispering Corridors 3: Wishing Stairs” (2003) were all released during the hottest days of the year, when audiences head to their local cinema to cool off. This year, however, there is only one local horror movie slated for release: “The Mimic.”

Based on a mysterious creature named Jangsanbeom, which mimics the human voice to enchant people, the movie depicts a family affected by the unknown creature. Jangsan is a mountain located in the Haeundae District in Busan while beom means tiger in Korean.

“Hide and Seek” (2013) director Huh Jung is at the helm while Yum Jung-ah, Park Hyuk-kwon and Shin Rin-a star in the movie.

The film revolves around Hui-yeon (Yum), who leaves behind city life for Jangsan with her husband, young daughter and mother-in-law to help her mother-in-law regain her memory. Hui-yeon lost her son few years back, and she believes her mother-in-law, who was with the son before he got lost, is the only person who may know his whereabouts.

Things start picking up when Hui-yeon encounters a girl (Shin) in tatters near a cave at the mountain. Feeling sympathy, Hui-yeon spares a bed for the girl, who reminds her of her lost son. Gradually, the girl mimics Hui-yeon’s daughter Jun-hee’s voice, name and look, as well as that of others, eventually putting the entire family in danger.

“I thought it would be thrilling to hear a familiar voice coming out from someone unfamiliar,” the filmmaker said about the motivation behind his latest movie during a press preview held Tuesday.

The director explained that instead of merely trying to scare audiences with scary sounds, he also tried to focus on a character’s weak spot that Jangsanbeom could take advantage of. For Hui-yeon, it was her lost son.

With horror movies seeing a drop in popularity over the past few years, it remains unknown how many will head to theaters to catch “The Mimic” when it hits theaters on Aug. 17.

Horror movies used to be must-sees for the Korean audience, as evidenced by box office hits like the 2003’s “A Tale of Two Sisters,” which sold 3.15 million tickets, and the 2004’s “To Catch a Virgin Ghost,” which sold 1.99 million tickets. There used to be at least one local horror film that dominated the box office every summer, but not as of late.

Horror movies were most popular in Korea between the ’90s through the mid 2000’s. This is the period when classic hit horror films like “The Fox with Nine Tails” (1994) and “The Ring Virus” (1999) were released. But the genre has begun to falter since 2005. “The Red Shoes” managed to be a commercial success that year with 1.37 million tickets sold, but no horror films performed well the following year. Ever since, only a few films such as 2007’s “Black House” and 2009’s “Chaw” managed to make any impact at the box office.

One of the reasons behind horror movies losing their grip on the Korean film market is the polarization of the film industry, according to movie critic Oh Dong-jin.

“Horror movies are usually low to mid-budget films that usually cost between 2 billion ($179,000) to 3 billion won to make, which means it needs to sell at least 700,000 tickets [to reach the break-even point]. However, in the film industry right now, producers and investors either make bid-budget films that can sell more than 10 million tickets or low-budget movies that can be produced for lower than one billion won.”

Another reason there are fewer horror movies in Korea is because other genres have grown in popularity.

“Horror movies reflect the social background of their time. In Korea, however, other genres like political or historical thrillers have taken on that function,” said Oh, citing movies like “The King” (2017) and “Assassination” (2015). Oh pointed to the lack of genre literature in Korea as another reason behind the trend.

Also, the lack of creativity in the genre has led audiences to turn away from Korean horror movies, according to movie critic Kim Hyeong-suk.

“When horror movies were at their peak in the early 2000s, three to four horror films were released every summer, creating horror stars like Ha Ji-won and horror-specialized directors like Ahn Byeong-ki. But the genre’s popularity did not last long, as the B-movie genre started to become too commercialized, repeatedly making use of the same elements,” Kim said, adding that it is especially important for genre movies to constantly make variations to maintain its audience.

“That is why fantasy thriller movies are being made instead,” said Kim, citing “House of the Disappeared” and “Lucid Dream,” both released this year.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]


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