Monday, October 14, 2013

Movie Appraisal: Into the Mirror (Geoul sokeuro) (거울 속으로) (2003)

Into the Mirror is a South Korean horror film that has a simple premise but a complicated, and brilliant, execution. I think I will always say that Asian horror around the early to mid-2000s was the pinnacle of the horror genre. Something about the way both South Korean and Japanese horror movies told stories during this period of time put them heads over any other type of horror in almost any other period in history. Into the Mirror strengthens my resolve in these thoughts even though it is not the scariest film ever. Instead it is a very intelligent horror film, taking from both psychology and philosophy to evoke a film that is absolutely worthy of both memory and emulation.

The movie is about the secret world of mirrors and what lies within every and all mirrors. It's about the idea that the world is split in twain, that there is another world, equal and opposite to this one, beyond that slab of reflective glass. The premise is exciting on its own, but the execution of the story is also masterful. The way the shots of the film are done is literally gripping unto itself. I could watch the shots that you think are simply the actors but turn out to be the actors in a mirrored surface all day long. So cool.

Speaking of the actors, the three main characters are something to behold: a chief of security who  used to be a hot-shot cop until he failed to save his partner in a hostage negotiation named Wu Young-min, the awesome violent crimes detective named Ha Hyun-su, and a mental patient woman with a love of mirrors named Lee Ji-Huyn. These three characters are at the center of a mysterious world of mirrors as well as a plethora of mysterious deaths connected to a department store.

This is more than a mere ghost story, although on the surface that is all this movie truly is. Yes, there seems to be a ghost, but even that is merely smoke and (ha ha) mirrors. It is much more about the two sides of every person, and, in my opinion, it shows that when two major choices or outcomes are put out there, either has a chance of happening. So, when Young-min failed to kill the hostage taker at the beginning of the movie, another Young-min in the mirror world did kill him and save the partner. I know that sounds kind of silly, but the movie makes it work really well despite the odd premise.

I liked the symbolism a great deal. I like how the story played out. I liked how most of the movie was a mystery to be solved. I liked how all the main characters grew over the course of the narrative, especially Ha Hyun-su. It was a unique movie idea, something I have never seen before. Certainly it could be compared to One Missed Call or Ringu, other movies that make a mundane thing into something terrifying. Taking a simple videotape, a cell phone, or a mirror and making those things into something that can and should be feared is an art. It is something that is brilliant. These are things we see all the time, and making them into something horrific makes the world a much more interesting place, I think.

I don't know. I don't have much to say about the story. It's solid and really good to watch. The acting is good. The imagery of the film is seriously great some of the time but also a little stale some of the time. The scenes that take place in the department store alone without the mirror effects or scares do seem to be a little sterile and dry when they appear. They're never boring, but those scenes don't jump out like the more interesting scenes certainly do. When the mirror effects happen or some of the more biting scenes of the movie are at hand, the movie is seriously brilliant in the way it is shown.

To put it mildly, I enjoyed this film very much. I think it's solid all around. A weird like that I had was the little musical jungles that sometimes happen during the movie. I have no idea why, but I really got a kick out of them. They worked for me quite well. The last moment of the movie was also great. It made my jaw drop just a little despite myself. I thought it was a great Twilight Zone-esque moment, one worthy of the great horror moments. And no, I won't spoil it because it really is that good.

I bought this film in a five dollar bundle of the Mirrors movies, and to me this movie alone is worth that. I recommend this film wholeheartedly. It is worth the watch even if the movie isn't the best literally all of the time. It has enough great moments to be something special. The horror is somewhat tame, and the gore effects are sometimes a little silly, but it is effective in its atmosphere. Although I was never really all that creeped out with the movie, I did find it endlessly fascinating from an intellectual standpoint. It's a good movie for a dark and spooky night. And I had a great time watching it.

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