Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fantastic Fest 2011 Movie Review- HAUNTERS- He Said

Directed by: Kim Min-Suk
Written by: Kin Min-Suk
Starring: Choi Deok-Moon, Jeong Eun-Chae, and Soo Go
Synopsis: Two men with super-powers, one who can control people within sight,
and the other than regenerate like Wolverine, battle one another.

When I signed up for this movie, I was pretty damn excited.  It was described as a more realistic X-MEN movie all with the nutty Korean sensibilities, which sounded a really interesting take on the superhero genre without having to be THE DARK KNIGHT levels of reality. What we got a was a very mediocre cat-and-mouse battle between two super-powered humans after a chance encounter.

Cho-In is a one-legged, for all-purposes, mutant that has made his way through the world by controlling people and stealing from pawnshops.  Lim is a recently unemployed thirty-something wandering through life.  Lim is the only person Chui-on has ever encounter that has been able to resist his mind control.  After the robbery goes awry and his boss dies because of it, Lim decides to go after Cho-In even if it kills him.  Lim also has a strange ability to regenerate.  At the start of the movie, he gets run over, is in a cast, and is completely healed in just a matter of days.

Once the action gets going, the movie picks up the pace.  Cho-In is a not a strong dude; he's so skinny, but considering he can control everyone in sight, he is challenging foe. It's really interesting to see both of these characters fall into their archetypes.  Cho-In doesn't kill and is not a violent guy even if he is a thief, and Lim is way over his head trying to stop someone who is stronger than him in multiple ways.

Thematically, the movie explores the cost of heroism in terms of the usual over the top super hero ways. Cho-In constantly tells Lim that if he wasn't trying to be such a hero, so many people wouldn't be dying.  This was a great topic that has not been confronted head-on by many super hero movies.  I'm not sure that the movie ever really votes one way or the other, but I'd be inclined to say that straight up heroism, as it is portrayed in this movie, causes way too much collateral damage for my liking.

Now, the debate can go both ways. If you have nutty serial killers and you're stopping them as a super hero, your actions can be justifiable. But in this movie, when the hero is the one that, in numerous ways, creates the bloodshed, you really have to wonder when "justice" should be carried out to its full extent.

Philosophy aside, the action scenes are really engaging, but repetitive because Lim will ALWAYS be fighting a huge crowd or other people being mind controlled by Cho-In.  It's only when you get to the climax that events unfold different enough to be interesting by adding cars and rooftops and cool effects.

Once you get past all of that, the movie never goes beyond a very standard action/sci-fi thriller.  It hits the beats that you expect it to, and even the people you think that will die. In the end, this a very middle-of-the-road movie could have been a lot better by exploring the aforementioned themes instead of sticking to regular movie structures and tropes.

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