[HanCinema's Film Review] "Black House" + DVD Giveaway
By William Schwartz | Published on
Joon-oh (played by Hwang Jung-min) is an insurance agent still reeling from childhood trauma. At home life with his girlfriend Mi-na (played by Kim Seo-hyung) is pretty much all right, but alas, Joon-oh is kind of dumb and fails to properly take to heart the first rule of insurance claim adjusting- never tells clients details about your actual life. Although admittedly, whoever drafted that rule probably did not anticipate that the company's insurance agents would go through the procession of body horror that is the "Black House".
...Well I exaggerate although really, horror movies in general tend to oversell the gore. In "Black House" the emphasis is mainly on the simple mystery- was the scene Joon-oh stumbles into staged? If so, by who? And why? Alas, as is often the case it's not the literal plot that's the most engaging aspect of a good horror film, but rather the interplay between character personalities. "Black House" is somewhat lacking in that department.
Joon-oh is the most obvious case, as his trauma ultimately ends up merely being a wedge wielded by the villain. Mi-na's lack of proper character development is a more subtly disappointing case. She obviously knows about Joon-oh's trauma, and being a doctor, proves a useful gateway for Joon-oh to meet other people that are more interested in psychiatric theory than Joon-oh's unimaginative co-workers. Yet by the end, she's nothing more than a victim need in rescue.
This is odd because until the climactic showdowns Joon-oh is consistently the big victim in "Black House". Even before the criminal is finally unveiled Joon-oh constantly undermines himself to authority figures by acting like, well, a total unconvincing dweeb. Kudos to Hwang Jung-min for being able to pull off such effective meekness. Alas, this just hints at further questions like "why is Mi-na together with this guy?" which are unfortunately never explored.
"Black House" is the kind of movie that's perfectly enjoyable to just kill time and experience the tension which frequently comes with watching characters come close to getting clawed to death. Unfortunately "Black House" is also one of those movies for which is hard to come up with sincere praise in terms of critical analysis. Director Shin Terra is just so focused on making a generically good horror thriller that nothing comes off as all that unique or noteworthy.
This is a shame particularly because the acting is quite good at points, as if the cast made a point of reading the original (Japanese) novel in full detail to insure they nail every moment of subtle creepiness to absolute perfection. The set design is pretty great- the editing was just choppy enough to make me wince away from the screen, and the continuity makes perfect logical sense. Well, at least until the end where Mi-na briefly disappears somehow for the sole purpose of facilitating a final showdown. Ah, whatever. The fight scenes were pretty legit, so if you're more into the gore than the mystery, don't worry. Director Shin Terra is going to get you there sooner or later.
Review by William Schwartz
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DVD (En Sub)
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.