I’m sure you are aware that if a film is from Asia – Korea in this instance – and remotely scary, the chances are that it’ll be remade in America. Geoul sokeuro is no different. Many of you may have seen Mirrors with a down on his luck Jack Bauer trying to protect his family from the titular furniture cursed with more than the promise of seven years bad luck.
However it isn’t a direct remake and only shares certain threads from the original.
After causing the death of his partner in a hostage situation, by shooting the reflection of the villain by mistake, Wu Young-min (Yoo Ji-tae) quits the police force and takes a job as head of security at a huge shopping mall called Dreampia, owned by his uncle. Days before the re-opening of the previously fire-gutted mall, an ominous presence looming within the many mirrors decorating the shopping centre begins to murder former mall employees. The deaths are being treated as suicides. Unhappy at the police investigation headed up by Ha Hyun-su, (Kim Myung-min) a former colleague with a grudge against Wu for the death of a friend, Wu starts his own investigation.
It is a huge shame that the bridge of the film is so heavily laden with boring dialogue, and only scratches the surface of Wu’s regret, because the first 15 minutes are fantastic.
The cinematography in the opening scenes is nothing short of mesmorising as we follow a female employee around the darkened mall, with the camera manipulating reflections and shadows to play illusionary tricks. It forms an agonizingly slow paced sequence that heightens the tension to claustrophobic levels.
Our first victim, convinced that she is being followed, picks up what appears to be a pizza slicer for protection before entering the toilets and standing in front of the mirror; as she composes herself, you can just see that her reflection is a fraction slower than she is. With the slow pull of a blade across her throat, a beautiful juxtaposition of rich red blood stalking the lines between stark white tiles, the mirrors claim their first victory. A tantalising opener to a film which should be a great horror, but which frustratingly fails to fulfill it’s potential.
My criticism of the film may be slightly harsh, especially as I did enjoy it, but the spine-tingling promise of the set-up merely serves to accentuate the inelegance and crawling pace adopted by the rest of the film. As the relevance of the mall’s fire comes to light, with the appearance of the twin of a woman who died in the blaze, and the conflict between Wu Young-min and Ha Hyun-su rising, the script meanders between tedium and predictability.
The idea of a character seeking revenge against a nefarious act from beyond the grave isn’t new and took away from what could have been something innovative and exciting.
When the resolution is, unsurprisingly, played out the only real shock comes in the unnecessary twist in the final shots of the movie – which even after a repeat of some expositionary dialogue from earlier in the film still didn’t make sense.
This film could have been great, but instead limped to a predictably bland conclusion.
Into the Mirror is out now as part of an excellent Korean Horror box-set (along with Acacia and The Wig) released by Palisades Tartan.
Additional film information: Geoul sokeuro (2003)