“Are you a moron? That’s evidence.”
Story: The World’s Worst Police Officer just wants to live a boring, uneventful life while waiting for the clock to run out on his retirement. But when a strange disease affects a small mountain village – right when an loner moves in – things get decidedly un-boring. Is this man the cause of all the illness? And why is everyone who comes down with the sickness suddenly so darn violent?
Scares: Several really good ones, but you’ll be here for the innovative storytelling more than outright boogedy-boogedy-shoo.
Splat factor: There’s blood, but it’s more gruesome than gory.
Closing scene “shocker”?: Nope, everything is wrapped up – as far as this twisty tale can be wrapped up – by the end.
Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: Original.
Trick or Treat?: Oh, so you don’t like to read subtitles? DON’T EVEN WITH ME. You’re missing out on some seriously amazing stuff, from outright terror to weirdness of the highest order. Something that blends a bit of both is this little treat, a K-Horror film that while spooky, reminds me of The Duelists with the slow burn and Spy Vs Spy-esque conflict.
With this tale it’s impossible to figure out who’s good and who’s evil. The story bobs and weaves, rivaling the best crime thrillers. Writer/Director Hong-jin Na does an excellent job of keeping things muddy, dropping tidbits here and there but never letting the answer fully take shape. There’s also a whole lot of gorgeous wide shots of woods and water to ogle as the characters try to figure out what’s going on. That solidifies the beautiful, but remote feel of the village, juxtaposing the chaos that’s happening within.
There’s great comedic timing with the sergeant and his fellow officer. “No, you get that!” In fact, his home life is just as hilariously… Average? Normal? Just a squirrel trying to get a nut, until all hell breaks loose. He makes for a hero I was happy to follow along and root for. Actor Do-won Kwak gives good slack-jaw, making his Officer Jong-goo humorous and credible. Kwak never lets you forget that while Jong-goo is investigating one hell of a mystery, he’s just an average Joe trying to get by, screwing up along the way. It’s a fantastic performance.
At an intense 2 hours and 45 minutes, it’s best to break this movie into parts. It’s a whole lot to watch in one sitting, though it’s compelling enough for you to want to. Just don’t expect everything to be tied up in a bow at the end – the director said it’s open to interpretation, and with the religious symbolism throughout, it’s definitely a movie you’ll be turning around in your head long after the credits roll.
Score: 4 out of 5 pumpkins.