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Gore-Drenched 'The Guard Post' Is Mostly Confusion

2008/08/03 | Permalink

Kyu Hyun Kim (qhyunkim)

Kong Soo-chang's follow-up to "R-Point" is a disappointment

There are hundreds of guide posts (GPs) along the length of the North-South Korean border. South and North Korean troops stationed at them are at a constant state of alert, with heavy artillery pointed at one another. These installations, a cross between a military depot and an underground bunker, are almost self-contained worlds.

One of them, GP 506, has stopped sending messages to headquarters. An experienced MP investigator Sergeant Noh (Chun Ho-jin, "A Dirty Carnival") and a cynical medical officer (Lee Ro-gun, "Humming", "Silmido") are sent to find out what happened. They find the troops literally drawn and quartered: the video evidence indicates the murders were committed by Private Kang (Lee Young-hoon, "No Regret"), a resident clown and the least likely candidate for going postal.

Further complications are introduced when they find the GP leader Lieutenant Yoo (Jo Hyun-jae, "Untold Scandal") hiding in the basement, half-crazy with fear and suspicion.

And things don't get much clearer after that. Kong Soo-chang's "R-Point", a Vietnam-set supernatural horror film, garnered praise and box office clout with finely orchestrated ensemble acting and authentic Kampuchean locations. "Guide Post", his follow-up, is also set in the military environment, and again makes use of excellent male thespians, as they growl, banter and confront one another. Unfortunately, the similarities end there.

Kong makes the fatal miscalculation of pushing his film toward another sub-genre of horror altogether, and then simply sitting on that (not uninteresting) premise.

Except for one explosive sequence where Lieutenant Yoo's victim, crushed beneath a van, suddenly comes alive to dispatch a hapless soldier, the "real culprit" behind the shenanigans is poorly handled by the filmmakers. What could have been an intriguing Korean variation on, say, "24 Days After", turns instead into a lugubrious, unimaginative splatter film, fatally devoid of any sense of humor, self-awareness, even political relevance.

Veteran Chun Ho-jin and supporting players, including Jo and Lee, gamely wade through the bloody miasma, but they can do only so much with the one-dimensional characters they are given. The music score by Choi Seung-hyun lifts pieces from "JSA - Joint Security Area" to disastrous effects. (Why keep reminding the viewers of a superior film set in a similar background?).

One positive thing I can cite for this misguided project is the level of technical achievements, especially special makeup effects designed by L.C.M. (Lee Chang-man, Lee Myong-ok and others): they are as shockingly realistic as those found in medium-level Hollywood productions, if not better.

"The Guard Post" is recommended only to the diehard fans of horror cinema or military hardware buffs: those with a low level of tolerance for a murky, confusing narrative or gruesome, messy violence should stay away.


2008 OhmyNews
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