The title of the upcoming horror film, The Hometown of Legends, alone, shows the audacity of the director, as the title is exactly the same as that of a representative Korean horror drama.
Although The Hometown of Legends is director Kim Ji-hwans directorial debut, he is a renowned horror film expert among Korean filmmakers. Kim has displayed his genuine affection towards the so-called cursed genre while writing horror film columns in FILM 2.0 magazine, based on his experience from watching several thousand horror movies.
Historic Korean horror movies best represented by A Public Cemetery of Wolha disappeared after the 1986 movie Woman`s Wail. Ghost movies such as Whispering Corridors and A Tale of Two Sisters, set in modern times, replaced them. Kim stated his aspiration of returning to the true roots of Korean horror movies.
So-yeon (Park Shin-hye, 17), who survives alone after falling into a body of water with her twin sister, Hyo-jin, at a village in the Joseon period, regains her memory ten years later. However, mysterious serial killings start to take place upon So-yeons recovery.
So-yeons mother (Yang Geum-seok) and soon to be husband, Hyun-sik (Jae-hee), are often baffled by So-yeon who sometimes shows the characteristics of her deceased sister after her memory loss. So-yeon also suffers an identity crisis.
The movie whose main motif is Kongjwi Patjwi, a Korean version of the Cinderella story, revolves around So-yeons identity crisis and the mystery surrounding her identity keeps the audience engaged and guessing until the end of the movie.
Park Shin-hye brilliantly plays both wicked So-yeon and kind-hearted Hyo-jin, demonstrating her potential as a rising star of Korean cinema.
However, the directors lack of experience is evident in the movie. The characters are busy screaming throughout the movie even before the audience feels a chill. This is like repeatedly asking the audience, That scene was scary, wasnt it? Taking away from the excitement somewhat. Awkward scenes like a ghost in white mourning clothes hitting her head on a beam because she is too tall or a German shepherd, which obviously did not exist during the Joseon period, fiercely barking on So-yeon, make us wonder if it is a comedy.
The Hometown of Legends, which has ended up being half a success, teaches us two lessons:
Reviewing movies and making movies are totally different matters. In fact, sticking to the grammar of a genre is more difficult than twisting it. The director must have fully realized this in making the movie. We look forward to his next film.