Thursday, October 22, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Henjel gwa Geuretel

2007, Pil-sung Yim -- download

Or Hansel & Gretel.

Again with the family focus, I really need to think back on western culture horror movies to see if the focus on family situations is as prevalent an element of their culture. Of course, many are seated in the conflicts between families, but I find that that is more about the development of the characters involved, rather than the primary focus. You build good characters by giving us something to connect to, and family situations lend to that.

But in South Korean horror cinema, there is so much of the centre of the plot connected to family. Lost family members haunting you, families broken apart, children needing parents, parents missing children etc. I know you cannot separate the culture from the cinema, and maybe it is my own distance from my family, but I don't find connection with these stories.

This movie starts with Eun-Soo wanting to deny the child he has sired while traveling to see the mother who never cared for him. He gets in a car accident (distracted driver!!) and ends up wandering the wrong way in the wood. Out of the dark comes a red riding hood, just a misdirecting cue as she actually leads him back to her isolated gingerbreading decorated home. Gingerbreading, not gingerbread. No big bad wolf in this tale.

He finds himself in the perfect home with the perfect family, three lovely kids, two lovely parents. The home is decorated in toys, with a sign post stating House of Happy Children. In fact, the next morning he sees exactly how dedicated this household is to happy children, as breakfast is basically cakes and sweets. We immediately get the feeling of him being fattened up for the oven, and assume a witch is involved.

But no, things may have some connection to the tale but this is not a mere retelling in another culture's setting. The tale of Hansel & Gretel is just a frame work here, a context to build weirdness upon. There is something dastardly going on with those kids, and their desire to place Eun-Soo as their new parent figure (he is both stern and protective), but there is no evil witch. But trapped in a house and trapped in the woods he is. This story is more akin to that old Twilight Zone episode, It's a Good Life.

Bad things happened to these kids in their past, very bad things. And for some, completely out there, reason Santa Claus appears and gives these kids a mystical power of control over their own reality. Or maybe it came from within, or another mystical source that appeared in their minds as Old Saint Nick. No matter, these kids have the power of wish, a bad exposure of what adults are capable of but a desire to live perfect child lives. Eun-Soo accepts this, proffers them that reality can be better, while acknowledging his own familial desires.

So, there is horror, scares and horrible dealings, but the laser focus of this movie is these kids and their desire to be a family. It just doesn't connect with me, and while the gestalt of the movie is not bad, this focus kept on pulling me out. These kids have the power to control reality, and Eun-Soo could be exploring that, making use of it, for his end and for their betterment. But no, the movie really only wants us to sympathize with the little monsters and hug them. But dude, they fed you their previous father!