The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
The Walking Dead
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more interesting is the underlying motive for these outrages upon the student body: a bloody revenge against the iniquities & inequalities not just of Korea's competitive school exams, but also more broadly of the nation's hierarchical 'class' system
It is something new to the eye. Gosa lacks scares and wit. Though it's truly cool as a whole but it's barely a horror movie.
Exceptionally shitty compared to most of Korea's rather shaky recent horror output, Death Bell is like an even dumber version of Saw. After concocting a vaguely interesting premise, revolving around a group of intelligent students solving mysteries in order to save their peers, it immediately discards the conceit - even when the puzzles are solved in time, the student in question dies anyway. Because the film is propped up on its tortures and subsequent deaths, this little paradox feels like it shouldn't matter, but Death Bell's general incompetence just makes it frustrating. This is largely because the kills aren't particularly clever, the puzzles feel rudimentary, the gore is shallow and there simply aren't any scares to be found. Any tension the movie manages to scrape up is destroyed by the unfocused editing, which cross-cuts between groups of different students experiencing varying levels of fear - a scene with a handful of rebels hiding in a dorm and being threatened by some encroaching spiritual presence is punctuated by cuts to the rest of the students sitting in a classroom and talking, effectively diffusing all of the build-up in the former scene.
The plot is a huge mess, as has become trendy in Korean horror. It's like the creators decided they wanted to have supernatural elements, got bored, and wrote in a plot twist that retroactively deleted all of the implausible things that happen in the first 80 minutes. Unsurprisingly, it is a completely lame twist. The acting is fine, but the heroine displays very little of the spunk that she puts forth before the shit hits the fan and the teachers only seem to have one dimension a piece. I've found it hard to appreciate Asian horror on a so-bad-it's-good level simply because it takes itself SO seriously. The plots feel so spare and interchangeable that the films have very little to distinguish them or make them endearing, even the better ones. If they don't succeed at their ambitions, it feels like less of a potential breeding ground for schadenfreude and more like you've just wasted an hour and a half of your time. Quite simply, films like Death Bell lack personality, which makes their failure as a horror doubly crippling when they can't serve as a comedy or a conversation piece either.
Fast paced Korean high school spin on Saw. Students are kidnapped, set up in traps, and their classmates must answer questions to set them free. Simple set-up that requires a lot of generous suspension of disbelief by the audience. The killer becomes almost omniscient, and their technical skills are flawless. Still, if people didn't follow the rules we wouldn't have a film. The traps are pretty unsettling, and the story behind why this is going on manages to intrigue for the short running time. Also a critique on the competitive nature of education in South Korea, we see the students scores represented like sports scores. It knows when to build the suspense and when to relish in its gore, but the victims are simply that, and the twist is just too convenient.
This fun flick has been astutely described by many as a mix between Battle Royal and Saw, but it's also got a touch of Art of the Devil II because of its supernatural content and plot style. It's certainly closer to BR with the timestamps of characters' deaths and the plot centering on a "chosen class" of teens forced into a world of brutality.
The blood is beautiful! The effects, especially the cuts on the bodies, and the corpses, are amazing. Typical to Korean fare, the featured ghost is truly creepy. The film keeps a tight pace going from one fairly inventive gory scare to the next. Unfortunately that's where all the goodness ends.
I've praised Eastern horror, particularly South Korean, of this sort before (see review on Art of the Devil 2) for being one big string of plot holes that relentlessly piles on cliches, twists, and other generally irrelevant details in attempt to create thrills. I liked this saturation of awful form because because it (consciously or unconsciously) satirizes the tired American practice of including one or two choice twists or cliches amidst a flutter of plot holes in a feeble attempt to elevate a horror's punch. Well now I'm just sick of the novelty. I still prefer the hyperbad style of the East to the "even a baby knows this is shit" style of Hollywood horror mills, but I erroneously expected that there would be SOMETHING deeper and more chilling here beyond imagery. Other hyperbad horrors from East have delivered on this promise, but Death Bell does not. Perhaps its biggest flaw is that, unlike BR, it does not go straight into the captive action part, but instead hovers to reveal the normal lives of some of the central students. That time could have been used to give us clues to unraveling the mystery, but instead it wastes time try to build emotional investment in the central-ish character.
This is a very fun flick if you're looking for gore and a shot at reveling in this death game scenario (which is becoming a budding subgenre), but do not expect any satisfaction from the story. This gets a three for its stellar effects; without them it would be a half star.
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