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'Black' Is Gore With Suspense

2007/06/21 Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

Rusty, run down and remote except for the sporadic purr of a passing train, "Black House" is no haunted mansion but a sinister place "where lies the darkest secret" of a psychopath __ a monster devoid of any human feeling or conscience.

Featuring a dungeon with nooses hanging from the ceiling and tainted tubs oozing with blood and dismantled limbs, and a psychopath nearing the next victim with a butcher's knife while humming an eerie song, "Black" offers chills and gore.

As the thriller fathoms the depths of man's "fascination for abomination", the bloodbath dilutes some of the suspense factor. But the film is deeply disturbing as it unravels from the eyes of an equally disquieting protagonist (Hwang Jung-min",You are my Sunshine", 2005).

On his first day of work at a life insurance company, consultant Jun-oh (Hwang) answers a phone call from a woman asking about compensation for suicide. Only after hanging up does he see the employee handbook warning against revealing personal information and expressing sympathy to such inquirers.

A few days later, Jun-oh is led to a decrepit house sitting on the outskirts of a sleepy neighborhood, where he finds a dead seven-year-old, hanging by the neck. But even more disconcerting is the darting glance of the boy's stepfather, Park (Kang Shin-il).

Though all evidence points to suicide, Jun-oh is convinced otherwise and postpones the insurance payment. Park stops at nothing to recover his money. Discovering that Park's wife, Shin (Yoo Sun), is covered by a 300 million won plan, Jun-oh tries to warn her before another murder ensues.

As Jun-oh ventures on a harrowing journey to unlock the truth of "Black House", he must protect not only his life but that of his lover.

Based on the best-selling novel of the same title by Yűsuke Kishi, "Black" received much attention from international buyers at Cannes in May for its strong script and acting. A Japanese version of the film was made in 1999, and Dimension Films of the United States also plans to film the story.

Popular horror novelist Yűsuke Kishi wrote the creepy tale based on his own experience at an insurance company. The writer is said to have expressed great surprise at Hwang's portrayal of Jun-oh, because the actor brought to life the precise image the author had in mind.

Hwang's role as the unlikely life insurance consultant is probably the most amiable one after Mr. Incredible from Walt Disney's "The Incredibles" (2004). But his abnormal degree of sympathy is troubling.

Haunted by the skeletons in his own closet, Jun-oh goes out of his way to help others, endangering not only himself but his loved ones. As he battles the stoic psychopath, he desperately tries to locate a trace of humanity in the monstrous being.

In portraying the truth about psychopaths, the film touches upon some childhood traumatic incidents but gives a one-dimensional generalization. While "Black" tries to strike your nerves by suggesting that there could be a psychopath living next door, it's not so arresting.

The film's suspense factor is slightly drained as it relies more on gore to keep viewers aghast. Like master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock famously said, "there is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it".

Yet, Hwang's impressive performance manages to shine through the heavy blood shower.

This is the third Korea-Japan joint venture following the Cannes award-winning "Old Boy" (2003) by Park Chan-wook and Asian box-office hit "200 Pounds Beauty" (2006) starring Kim Ah-joong, both inspired by Japanese comic books and brought to screen by Korean filmmakers and actors.

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