Korea is no stranger to the genre of horror. But a horror musical film is not something you come across. Maybe because musicals are part of Korea's entertainment scene, musical movies have not managed to entice audiences. Film and theater offer very different experiences, after all. Jeon Gye-soo ('Love Fiction') and 'The Ghost Theater' bring horror musicals to the big screen, with enjoyable results.
The film opens with our lady protagonist, So-dan (Kim Kkobbi), looking for her senile grandmother, who kept repeating she wanted to go to Samgeori Theater and watch her movie again. When she finds out there is a job opening at that theater, So-dan signs up in hopes her grandmother will eventually turn up. She soon discovers that the owner and staff of this rundown place are a less than cheerful bunch and that the theater is also haunted.
Given this movie is leaning towards the art house side, the plot can make or break the deal for a viewer. While there is a main story to be found and hints to it throughout the film, a few voids are present and those have to be filled by the viewer. The final act of the film might feel confusing and artsy, but if one has pieced things together, it makes for a creative way of revealing the past and a good resolution.
The characters are all very colorful and also very dual in their nature, which is what adds to the horror element, although the movie cannot be considered as a scary one. They seem kind and benevolent at times, but they can also have some less-than-cute outbursts nearing the psychotic. That is partially due to the theatricality of musicals, of course, but it translates into an eerie feeling on film. Right up until the very end, you will wonder whether you trust these characters or whether their motivations might be darker than they seem. The ghost characters are delightfully nutty and unique and their function is somewhere between secondary leads and what could be described as a Greek chorus. They have their stories and goals, but they are also the ones who, little by little, reveal the main plot, information about the world and characters, as well as the nature of their existence.
The image and sound of the movie have been given great attention, of course, with everything from the sets and wardrobe to the more minor props giving the now dead world of Samgeori a lively and majestic past and character. There are many still shots of interesting angles, maze-like staircases and glimpses into spaces full of clutter which was part of the theater's heyday. The strong colors are there alongside decay and dust, which is a sad sight and enhances the notion that the place is too far gone and lacking any devotion from its owner.
The film's music features some nice pieces in a wide range of moods and the cast does a decent job delivering them. Park Jun-myun and Han Ae-ri are undoubtedly the strongest voices, but the others do pretty well. Park Yeong-soo offers coarse vocals adding to the rougher elements of the songs and Jo Hee-bong brings a more smooth, but deep sound to the quartet. Chun Ho-jin does not have a big part in the music side of things, but his character is also the one who is the biggest mystery and less inclined to share his thoughts and feelings. Musically or otherwise.
'The Ghost Theater' will not be everyone's cup of tea, but it is a mostly coherent and nicely done work which manages to be entertaining and offer a fresh type of feast for the eyes and ears. Its eccentricity is humorous and warm and its main story very human and moving.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Ghost Theater""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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