Horror debut drowns in stale images
For many ambitious film directors in Korea, the genre of modern horror flicks has become something of an Aladdin’s lamp, which they think of as a magical turning point in their cinematic careers able to certify their aesthetic taste with a single granted wish.
In fact the directors of “K-horrors” usually have a few things in common. Often they have never directed horror films before; somewhere in the special features section of their DVDs their commentary implies that horror was never their favorite genre; and their films make grand and sweeping statements about human psychological concerns such as jealousy, resentment and homoeroticism.
In the case of Bong Man-dae’s “Cinderella,” it’s clear he pushed too hard to try to rehabilitate his reputation from that of a best-selling director of soft-porn adult videos to the only slightly more respectable genre of B-grade cult horror films.
It was a worth a try, I guess.
The film, though is flooded with tasteless lines and once again recycles the subject of a crawling ghost from the Japanese movie “Ringu” by Hideo Nakata, contains some eye-catching computer graphics and illustrates turmoil in mother and daughter relationships. That’s about as far as “Cinderella” goes, however.
Delving into an obsession with beauty, the movie doesn’t penetrate very deeply into the female psyche or its own reference to the classic fairy tale. Instead it drowns in a superfluous pool of stale visual cues, including a broken mirror and masks.
The peaceful life of 17-year old Hyun-su (Sin Se-Gyeong) turns to chaos when her friend is found dead with her face hacked to pieces, after a cosmetic surgery procedure performed by Hyun-su’s mother (Do Ji-won).
The story’s twist comes when Hyun-su finds she had a secret step-sister who killed herself after being locked up in the basement by their mother because a car bombing left her with severe facial burns.
It’s a juicy and promising twist but the way the story is told on screen is too linear and lacks skillful tension.
What’s even more distracting is the film’s dialogue. When Hyun-su’s friends hear the voice of a female ghost whispering “I will make you pretty” (that seems to be the film’s refrain) during a hallucinatory sequence, you are so embarrassed that you almost want to crawl under the operating table along with the ghosts.
“Cinderella” begins as melodramatic horror, but as the film loses control, it precariously shifts back and forth from horror to slasher movie to parody.
In one scene, two high-school girls at an art school sit across from each other in front of their easels, slashing each other’s faces with palette knives after being hypnotized by a voice saying, “You’re pretty, you’re pretty.”
The scene holds great potential for parody, if only the director had a better sense of humor.
But as a work of art to make a new name for its director and show his sense of visual subtlety on screen, “Cinderella” somehow misses the point.
by Park Soo-mee