Hyeon-jin (played by Park Ji-soo) is having a miserable time of life. Her job stinks. She's trying to fix that with English classes, which are incredibly dull and unlikely to be much help with her career. But worst of all, Hyeon-jin has just moved into a new apartment, in a building that seems to be falling apart. There are strange, unaccounted for sounds. And then there's that creepy wallpaper, that Hyeon-jin gets lost in sometimes, with its oddly bewitching stained pattern...
Going by this description you're probably inclined to think that "The End of April" is a horror film. At least, that was my assumption, since it was hard to imagine what else all that sharp creepy tension was building up to. When writer/director Kim Kwang-bok wants to make a scene tense and frightening, that's exactly what happens, even when all that's happening on-screen is an awkward conversation. Or worse, we see a single person engaged in inexplicable repetitive violent behavior, yet is oddly unnerved.
But alas, there is no satisfying supernatural or even mundane explanation for all the bizarre events Hyeon-jin is witness to, because all "The End of April" is building up to is a plot twist. This plot twist makes less and less sense the more I think about it, since large portions of the movie aren't even from Hyeon-jin's point of view at all. I can't really get into more than that without explicit spoilers, but suffice to say the plot twist obliterates several of the movie's subplots without explanation of what was actually happening contrary to our assumptions.
It especially doesn't help that so many of these subplots were so pointless in the first place. I could follow along with all the creepy ones, because the implication was always that Hyeon-jin was going to find out what unknown power was at work in the apartment building influencing people in such strange ways. But then we get her love interest Kyeong-soo (played by Hong Wan-pyo) and uh, why does Hyeon-jin even have a love interest in the first place?
I mean, seriously, structurally, having a love interest in a horror thriller doesn't really make much sense. For awhile there is that implication that maybe Kyeong-soo is also evil, since he's kind of a creep, and Hyeon-jin even explicitly says as much. But, what, was that to just give us a fakeout when it turns out that none of that stuff was actually important? I'm all for a good red herring but there has to be, you know, an actual mystery in there for a red herring to function properly.
And what do we get instead? That weird wrench that follows Hyeon-jin around and is promptly forgotten about until the climax. There's that massively uncomfortable rape scene which, again, is impossible to interpret properly since the big plot twist makes it very unclear what actually happened. I can only assume that writer/director Kim Kwang-bok was going for some kind of greater thematic point that completely went over my head, because all I see here is a very good horror movie that ruins itself by deciding not to be a horror movie.
Review by William Schwartz
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "The End of April""
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