One quite undisputed fact of the East Asian movie industry is that J-horror is long since dead. Koreans (and others), however, occasionally try their luck in the genre, and very rarely, a film like "The Wailing" emerges, although there, horror is just an excuse for a plethora of different of elements. Huh Jung, probably instigated by Na Hong-jin's film (as many more in the future will be) presents his own take on the Korean edition of J-horror.
Hee-yeon moves to the country, near Mt Jang, with her husband Min-ho, daughter Joon-hee, and sick mother-in-law, Soon-ja, in an effort for the family to get over the disappearance of her son. Almost as soon as they move in, a body is found in a secluded, walled up room in the nearby forest, and a little girl appears unexpectedly. Hee-yeon, feeling sorry for the girl, decides to let her spend some days in their house. However, as soon as that happens, strange phenomena start taking place, while the "adopted" shows an uncanny ability to mimic Joon-hee's voice. As the urban legend of the Jangsan Tiger, a man-eating creature that roams around Mt Jang, comes to the fore, Soon-ja seems to lose her mind completely, in a series of events that end up with her disappearing in a cave nearby, which seems to share a connection with the aforementioned walled-up room.
The film was released in S. Korean cinemas on August 17, 2017, and became a blockbuster immediately. The reasons are obvious, since Huh Jung incorporated almost every element considered popular in the country and even internationally. In that fashion, we have an urban legend as the basis, the supernatural horror, the agony of the thriller, the melodrama due to the husband and wife relationship, the missing children, the wife whose medication makes her and other question her grip on reality, one adorable and one adorable-scary girl, an ominous forest, a dangerous cave, and many similarities with "The Wailing". Regarding the last aspect, Huh Jung used an exorcism scene (which, I guess we will be seeing a lot from now on as there was also one in "The Truth Beneath"), much like, but not as impressive, as the one in the aforementioned movie, while the general appearance of the villain shares many similarities with Jun Kunimura's character.
Add to that the extreme and abrupt noises, and the similarly fashioned editing cuts, the uncanny way the mimic mimics other people's voices, the darkness coming from the hole in the wall and occasionally wrapping everything, the screams, the hunt, and the permeating agony, and you have the backbone of a film that succeeds in ticking every box the genre ever included.
Huh Jung, however, in an almost uncanny fashion, manages to make all these elements work in the film, and in the process, to mold them into something, although not at all original, nevertheless utterly entertaining.
This accomplishment benefits the most from the cast, and particularly the female protagonists. Yum Jung-ah is impressive as Hee-yeon, portraying a woman on the brink of a nervous breakdown, who tries to replace her lost son with a newfound girl in an obsessive act that worsens her situation. Shin Rin-ah as the mimic-girl manages to be adorable and terrifying at the same time, while Heo Jin as Soon-ja plays the senile mother in law who erupts with gusto.
"The Mimic" is a film that mimics (pun intended) many others, but in the process becomes much entertaining, and will definitely satisfy the fans of Japanese and Korean horror, who should watch the film on a big screen, in order to experience its audiovisual merits to the fullest.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[Guest Film Review] "The Mimic""
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