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H (KOREA 2002)

Director: Lee Jong-Hyuk
Producer: Oh Jeong-Wan
Cast : Ji Jin-Hee, Yum Jung-Ah, Jo Seung-Wu, Seong Ji-Ru, Lee Eol

Synopsis
The gruesome murders of three pregnant women bear a resemblance to murders committed by killer Shin Hyun. The only problem for the police is that at the time of the killings Shin was locked up in prison and so they fear that a copy-cat killer is loose. Detectives Kim and Kang are partnered up to solve the case. Due to a lack of evidence, the detectives have no choice but to go to the prison and talk to Shin to see what he knows about the killings….

Review
by Martin Cleary

Some of the best films that have made their way out of Korea in the last few years are those which have taken familiar film genres and managed to give them a fresh and unique spin. I was hoping that H would manage to accomplish the same task as it’s a serial killer film that sounds fairly familiar to many other (mainly Hollywood) serial killer films. Unfortunately, while the filmmakers borrow (i.e. steal) generously from films such as Se7en and Silence Of The Lambs – and they do have a few new ideas themselves – the film doesn’t quite cut it as anything new. But still, as a genre film it’s worth a look.

The film opens with some suitably grisly and atmospheric imagery of a brutally murdered young woman who seems to have had her unborn baby removed from her stomach (yep, it’s nasty!). From this opening the film sets the dark tone very well and starts to build up a tense atmosphere. For the most part the film retains the tension well, but on occasion the film slows down to such a snails pace that it loses it slightly. It’s also one of those films that it’s best to view with little or no prior knowledge of the plot. The two main actors are fine in their roles as the two detectives, both struggling to come to terms with the case. Yum Jung-Ah doesn’t have much to do except look haunted and withdrawn, although of course she’s easy on the eye and does well in what is ultimately a fairly thankless role. Ji Jin-Hee also gives a good performance. At times he verges on going slightly over the top, but luckily he stops just short of giving the role TOO much. At least the performance brings a bit of life to some fairly low-key scenes. The central ‘psycho’ figure of the film, Shin Hyun, is suitably creepy.

Unfortunately he’s only a shadow of guys like Hannibal Lector and John Doe and doesn’t bring anything new to the ‘psycho-behind-bars’ routine. But still, it’s fine and manages not to slip into being cheesy (just).Visually the film is a treat – and just what we expect from these types of serial murder films. It’s bloody and suitably dark for most of the duration (see the screenshots!) with one key scene being played out in bright daylight which is in refreshing contrast to the rest of the film. Wisely most of the nastiness takes place off camera and so for the most part we are left with only the bloody aftermath – which is effective.

H is not a classic film, it has a few basic flaws – it suffers from being over long and a slow-pace. Sometimes slow can be moody and sometimes it can be a drag – H combines both of these two elements. It’s a fairly average film throughout but still manages to keep the viewers interest with a promise of some surprises, which to be fair do eventually come. Eventually.  Sadly, it looks like the filmmakers were going for something in the vein of the film Se7en, but manages to come nowhere near. H is a cheap thriller in comparison, but taken on its own merits will keep you interested. On the upside the film does at times manage to create a tense atmosphere and it also has quite a shocking ending which shows the filmmakers intentions to bring something new to the genre. It’s an ending which will probably divide viewers into ‘like it’ / ‘hate it’ camps. Personally I enjoyed it and was prepared to forgive a few plot holes and a certain level of believability – although the film is not really strong enough to stand up particularly well to a second viewing.

Rating
Plot : 2.5/5
Acting : 3.5/5
Entertainment : 3.5/5
Overall : 3.5/5

Notable Scenes
- The gruesome first murder scene
- The murder suspect uses his knife – in a nightclub
- The bizarre final revelation…

Buy this movie at  YesAsia – H

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