Title: House of the Disappeared (Fantasia 2017 review)

Also known as:
Si-Gan-Wi-Ui Jib (Original title)

Year: 2017

Genre: Thriller / Mystery / Horror

Language: Korean

Runtime: 100 min

Director: Dae-wung Lim

Writer: Jae-hyun Jang, Alejandro Hidalgo (original screenplay by)

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6814252/


Plot:
25 years after a tragic incident that destroyed her family, Mi-hee is allowed to leave prison to visit the old house to fully remember what happened. As she tries to recall what happened, she finds out that there have been other tragedies here, and everything might be connected.

Our thoughts:
It might come as a surprise that this South Korean supernatural thriller, "House of the Disappeared", is in fact a remake of the Venezuelan film "The House at the End of Time" (it might not be a surprise, however, that there is also a US remake planned). Despite having gotten some positive reactions, "The House at the End of Time" is perhaps not the most successful international movie, but it's always fun to see a country like Venezuela getting attention. This South Korean remake is also pretty damn faithful to the original source, with some minor changes. I don't want my review's main focus to be to compare the two films, but obviously it has to be done to some degree. As a whole, as far as getting known, odds are that "House of the Disappeared" might actually receive more attention as a whole due to being from a cinematically rich country like South Korea, but rest assured that when the US remake finally arrives it will need to be great to exceed either of these two.

The movie begins on a horrific night where a mother wakes up, injured, only to find her husband stabbed to death and her son is pulled into a dark hole behind a door, never to come back. The mother is thrown into prison for what happened, but no one actually knows. 25 years later, when she's a frail old woman, she is given the chance to leave the prison and return to the house to see if she can remember what went down that night 25 years ago. Slowly, she puzzles together the pieces, but there is still something missing: who or what attacked them that night? Was it the father who often came home drunk and violent? Was it an intruder? What follows is a mix of supernatural ghost stories, time-travelling and a dark family tragedy.

Director Dae-wung Lim is perhaps most known for the okay 2006 horror "Bloody Reunion", but in "House of the Disappeared" he proves to be a very careful director who can respect source material while also daring do some changes that may appeal more to the culture of his target audience. As a whole, it is hard for me to say which movie is better, "House of the Disappeared" or the original "The House at the End of Time". The original will always have the edge of being where the story came from, and it deserves that credit completely. The original story also gave a very different focus on the kids in the family. I'd also argue that some parts of the ending were made a lot more clear in the original. Without spoiling too much, we're given a better context to a choice.

Yet, I have to say that "House of the Disappeared" is much more entertaining as a movie. It looks better purely aesthetically, the supernatural parts play out with more of a folk-tale-like creepiness, and Yunjin Kim as the mother is simply fantastic. She's as believable as the younger mother, as she is as the old woman. There are small touches to her performance that really sells the tragedy of losing her family. I can never watch a remake without thinking about what it does with the original material, and in this case I would actually recommend the remake over the original. The two movies are similar enough, but personally this South Korean version is definitely the more suspenseful and effective movie.

Now, let's ignore the source material and just talk about "House of the Disappeared". It looks, feels and acts like a ghost movie, and I think those watching it because of that will still be pleased. However, the movie is definitely more of a thriller with a supernatural twist to it. I hate to use the word "mature", but I can't help but feel that this is what "ghost stories" should strive for. Less scary faces and jump scares, more intriguing and tragic stories/explanations. No, I don't mean that every ghost story should be thrillers instead of horror, or have "realistic" explanations (this one doesn't). But I do think that more weight should be put on the characters and how they act, what the back story is and how it relates to what's happening. It's not even that "House of the Disappeared" (or the original Venezuelan movie) are that original to begin with, as you will probably figure out what is going on before you find it out, but it remains interesting no matter what. The biggest problem with modern ghost stories that try to take it slow and be atmospheric is that when the final act comes, they'll want to show you everything they have. That doesn't happen here, because the story around the characters are what we care about.

This is not even the greatest supernatural movie in recent years (neither is the original), but thanks to the atmosphere, build-up of the story and the excellent performance by Yunjin Kim, it's a movie I can definitely recommend. This remake is currently playing Fantastia International Film Festival, and if you don't have the chance to watch it there then you can study the source material before you get the hands on it. Though they are both good and very similar movies, "House of the Disappeared" stands well on its own, and in certain aspects surpasses the original.


Positive things:
- A supernatural story that doesn't go over-the-top.
- Has you hooked even when you've figured out where the movie is going.
- Translates the Venezuelan story well to its South Korean culture.
- Is a lot more atmospheric, looks better and has a much more believable performance in the lead than the original movie.
Negative things:
- Some choices in the story compared to the original.

Rating:
Gore: 0.5/5
Nudity: 0/5
Story: 3.5/5
Effects: 2.5/5
Comedy: 0/5

We watched this movie thanks to:
Fantasia International Film Festival 2017

Reviewed by:
Ronny

 




 

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