Here’s a review for a new Korean one I just watched, “Black House”, a suspense/ horror film about a sensitive insurance agent who becomes ensnared in a terrifying game of cat and mouse with a psychotic killer.
The synopsis I found for it says it all: “Director Shin Tae-ra teams with screenwriter Lee Yeong-jong to adapt author Yusuke Kishi’s 1997 novel concerning an insurance investigator investigating a brutal series of murders. Jeon Jun-oh (Hwang Jeong-min) is a bespectacled former bank employee who now makes his living as an insurance investigator. Summoned to the formidable country estate of potential client Park Chung-bae (Gang Shin-il), Jeon is unnerved by his host’s jittery behavior, and shocked to find the body of Park’s seven year old son hanging lifeless from the ceiling. Everything in this house has a grim aura, including Park’s wife Shin Yi-hwa (Yu Seon) – a grieving cripple whose recent stab at suicide is evidenced by the jagged wounds that mar her wrists. After touring the house, Jeon becomes convinced that Park is in fact a psychopath attempting to carry out an elaborate insurance scam. Not only does Jeon suspect that Park killed his own son, but he believes the murderous patriarch is now intent on doing away with his wife as well. When Jeon’s attempt to convince the authorities of Park’s guilt seem to fall of deaf ears, the sleuthing insurance investigator becomes obsessed with the prospect of uncovering the truth about this strange case. Unfortunately for Jeon and his unsuspecting girlfriend Mi-na (Kim Seo-hyeong), this mystery is much deadlier – and deeper – than anyone ever imagined imagined. ~ by Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide”
Neko doesn’t usually like these sorts of horror offerings, they really scare me far too much to truly enjoy them the way I do more supernatural films, but is this one worth my uneasy squirming and sweaty nervousness? Let’s find out shall we?
This Korean horror film departs from the usual “Long haired ghost” genre to examine the very real, and very terrifying world of the psychotic sociopath and what they are capable of doing to the life of an otherwise ordinary man who makes the mistake of crossing ones path. Jeon Jun-oh (played by Hwang Jeong-min), is just such a man. He’s a sensitive guy, far too caring and sensitive for the new job he’s just started as an insurance agent and claims investigator. He’s a man who can sympathize with his clients and their troubles, having had a tragedy happen to him early in life, a tragedy that haunts him still and has shaped his life in ways he hasn’t even been aware of. That sympathy makes him careless….. he freely gives out personal information about himself as he talks to people in his work, which the employee manual warns him against doing. Jun-oh gets a call on his first day at work from a woman seeking advice. She asks if insurance is still paid out on suicides, and only after hanging up does he remember that warning. Later on, Jun-oh is taken by surprise when a client whom he has never met, Yin Chung-bae (played by Kang Shin-il), asks for him by name to come by his house to discuss a policy.
The client lives with his family in a rundown old building that used to be a bathhouse, long since closed down, now crumbling and dilapidated and about a scary looking a place as can be imagined. While there, Jun-oh finds the man´s 7 year old stepson hanging from a noose in his bedroom. The police rule the death a suicide, despite the fact that Jun-oh believes creepy Chung-bae possibly murdered the boy and may have tried to use him as the perfect collaborating witness for his crime. Since the police don’t act, Jun-oh takes it on himself to investigate further into Chung-bae´s somewhat checkered past. Seems this isn’t the first claim he’s made…. Jun-oh finds that he’s collected disability payments for what appears to be a self mutilation passed off as a work accident. Much worse, Chung-bae also has a 300 million won policy on his wife, Yi-hwa (played by Yu Seon)!
He delays paying on the claim as long as he can, trying vainly to find evidence to force the police to investigate, but then Chung-bae begins a carefully orchestrated campaign of psychological terror aimed at convincing him to pay off the claim and give up his snooping. His girlfriend Mi-na (played by Kim Seo-hyeong), warns him to drop it all…. that it isn’t worth all the risks he is taking. She’s a doctor, and a colleague of hers has told her that Chung-bae fits the profile of a psychopath, and that in his opinion, both Jun-oh and her are in grave danger. Then her little doggie gets decapitated…….
The story moves along….. and let’s just say it isn’t just the little doggie who gets it in a messy way. Seems all is not what Jun-oh believes….. The horror gets much worse before this one is through, with some more grisly murders, mutilations, and downright messy stuff…..and a fiery climax at the end that nearly kills both Jun-oh and Mi-na…… but that’s not even the end of the scares. There’s more…. but Neko’s not gonna spoil it for you. You’ll just have to watch for yourself… if you dare.
Neko really liked this one, despite the uncomfortable subjects and some questionable plot holes here and there. Still, it was a taut riveting film that shows that asian horror doesn’t all have to be “ghosts and spirits” but can be so much more too. Your Favorite Catgirl gives it 4 “Meows” out of 5, with one shudder for that grisly “keychain in the eyeball” effect that looked far to realistic for my comfort… Brrrrrr!
There a Trailer available, and here it is…