Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Voice (Someone Behind You) (2007)

If you are a fan of horror movies, then you know what it is like to be snakebitten by the After Dark Horrorfest. Instead of "Eight Films To Die For," I sometimes think the tag "Eight Films To Kill Over" would be more apt, as the productions rarely match the hype or meet my expectations.

Usually I can at least count on the token J-Horror or K-Horror entry to be acceptable if not a tad contrived, but lately that has not been the case.

Someone Behind You aka Voices (not to be confused with Voice aka Yeogo Goedam 4: Moksori aka the fourth entry in the Whispering Corridors franchise) is a K-Horror film loosely based on the Manhwa, It's Two People by Kang Kyung-ok.

The tale begins with the obligatory mysterious and brutal murder that we tend see at the beginning of any movie working the DarkGrudgeRingMissingCall formula, and then shifts to an introduction to the film's heroine, Ga-In (Yun Jin-seo); a normal student at a normal Korean private school with a normal family living a normal life.

Events progress... well... normally... until a tragic occurrence at the wedding of Ga-In's aunt. Ga-In's aunt survives a fall from a balcony at the hotel where the wedding is taking place (i.e. she was pushed) only to be stabbed to death in the hospital by the aunt's younger sister.

Someone Behind You then borrows equal parts from Ju-On and A Tale of Two Sisters as the movie touches on just about every Asian horror standard from family curses to malevolent spirits to urban legends gone horribly wrong to teased schizophrenia, yet still finds time to weave in the demonic possession version of the Rage Virus from 28 Days Later as nearly all of Ga-In's friends, acquaintances, and teachers try to kill her during fits of violent behavior.

I am a huge fan of chthonic horror and I really wanted to like this movie, but there was one element that really bothered me and that is the lack of proper horror movie rules.

The whole point of introducing an occult entity into a horror film is so that the protagonist is presented with the opportunity to triumph over overwhelming odds against a nigh-implacable foe. Supernatural movies from the classic (i.e. The Exorcist) to the awful (i.e. The Unborn) all have a firm grasp on this fundamental mechanic.

The protagonist doesn't necessarily emerge victorious, but a level playing field between man and demon usually lends itself to a more satisfying storyline.

I'm sure that Director Oh Ki-hwan thought it was a pretty novel idea to introduce a preternatural force that was completely unbeatable. The problem is that by taking that route, you completely telegraph the ending. It is inevitable that Ga-In will eventually die, so any plot twist involved in the ending will just make the conclusion all the more pretentious.

Sadly enough, Someone Behind You continues the trend of Asian horror films that strive to be clever and complex, yet only succeed in outsmarting themselves.

Despite the fundamental flaw, Someone Behind You has enough jump scares and meaningful plotline to entertain you during the runtime, provided that you are totally unschooled when it comes to Asian horror.

I can't really recommend it to any veterans of Asian horror because, to be frank, you have seen it all before and you have seen it in far better films that this one.

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