Written by the director of “Priests” , directed by Lim Dae-wong of “To Sir, With Love”, featuring Yunjin Kim in her first role after 2014, and with a concept very close to that of J-horror, “House of the Disappeared” had all the collateral to become a blockbuster, which I am sure it will, eventually. Let us take a closer look at it though.
“House of the Disappeared” is part of the Asian selection at Fantasia International Film Festival
The story shows its nature immediately, as in the first scene we witness a terrified Mi-hee watching her son disappear into a door drawn by a tremendous, invisible force, while her husband, Cheol-joong is laying injured in the basement, dying. The next scene has Mi-hee arrested by the police, as the sole perpetrator of the ordeal. 25 years later, an aged Mi-hee returns to the house, in a last attempt to realize what happen. Soon, she finds herself accompanied by a forceful priest, Choi Joon-ho, who shows a sincere interest in her case, despite her protests. As the story before the initial events begin unraveling through flashbacks and Priest Choi’s research, the true reason behind the supernatural events is revealed, which also involves a number of non-metaphysical events.
Lim Dae-woon manages to create an atmosphere that soars with agony and terror, from the first scene to the end, with very few moments of calmness. In this tactic, he is helped the most by the cinematography, which uses the space of the house in the most elaborate way, in order to create a claustrophobic environment of terror. The same applies to the editing, with the continuous abrupt cuts, but most of all the sound, with the intense effects and the screaming creating a truly hellish setting.
As it has become the rule in S.Korean cinema, Lim Dae-woong had to induce the film with some melodrama, which, in this case, derives from the relationship of a mother with her children. This however, is the element that makes the movie stand out from the majority of the category, through a quite well presented combination of supernatural horror, drama and sci-fi elements. At times, it seems that Lim may have taken the story a bit too far, particularly during the ending, but even this hyperbole fits the general aesthetics of the story. However, it does not mean that he has avoided the clichés of the above genres completely.
The film also makes two additional points, although none of them is thoroughly examined. The first one regards religion and particularly Christianity, who is presented initially as a hopeless concept, only to mend the fact at the end. Child abuse is another subject, in conjunction with domestic violence, both of which are presented as horrors of supernatural proportions. Lastly, I could not help but comparing the exorcism with the one in “The Wailing”, with the two of them sharing a number of similarities; like the fact that they are both among the most impressive scenes (if not the most) in the two films.
Yunjin Kim is the undisputed star of the film, as she appears on almost every scene in the film. Once more, she is great, this time as a terrified, disoriented, but determined mother, who has to face a number of forces that are much above her. Her transformation through the above statuses is the highlight of an impressive performance that anchors the film in many ways. Ok Taec-yeon as Priest Choi has a secondary and relatively laconic role, with Lim Dae-woon drawing much from his impressive looks. Jo Jae-yoon as Cheol-joong is quite good in a very difficult role, of a man with no merits.
Lim Dae-woon seems to have taken a number of elements of different genres and movies in order to create a unique amalgam that features horror, sci-fi and melodrama. Although not many elements of the film are unique, he managed to combined them in very entertaining fashion, in order to present a film that benefits the most from its atmosphere and Yunjin Kim’s performance.