The welcome IFC Midnight series proceeds apace with two troubling and creepy genre movies from Korea -- THE CHASER, a relatively complex serial killer thriller, and CADAVER a ghost story in which spirits-of-the-dead begin performing their own autopsies on the living. IFC Midnight collects some of the better genre films from around the world (horror, thriller, sci-fi and erotic-arthouse) that have made festival splashes but may not be quite big enough for prime-time play dates.
IFC then gives them a chance to be seen at home, On-Demand (sometimes with a small theatrical release).
South Korean cinema was the hot new thing a few years back, but its commercial wave seems to have crested around the time of The Host -- which means little in terms of either the quality or originality of the what's still coming out of South Korea. Rather, it indicates that our cultural guardians, ever demanding of the new and the novel, have moved on to... Romania? (Whoops: that was two years ago.) Italy? (Though they're currently enjoying some arthouse popularity in the U.S., Gomorrah and Il Divo rocked Cannes last year.) Iran? (Please: you're at least a decade behind the times, and in any case, The Song of Sparrows did not make much of a recent wave at the box-office.)
My point here is that these countries, and many more, though off the current critical radar, continue to produce interesting films worth seeing. But without the crack combo of quality, timing and luck that makes a movie a critical and arthouse hit, good films from all over the world continue to languish unseen. Which is why we should particularly appreciate what IFC is doing for these genre movies.
|The Chaser is the first film of a new director, Hong-jin Na, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Visually, and in terms of construction, performances and pacing, the movie is almost shockingly well-done. For awhile. This may be but another of those cultural differences, yet I've noticed that most Korean films, good ones on down, are long. It's rare to find one coming in under two hours. (The Chaser lasts 125 minutes.) In the U.S. (and elsewhere in western societies) the genre film is generally short, tight, fast and very focused. Under 90 minutes is often de rigueur. This would have helped The Chaser immensely because, finally, the movie just wears you down. All the blood and pain and "We've got him!" "No, we don't!" becomes repetitive, and just when things ought to be ending, they're cresting, then ebbing, and then cresting again. There's a lot of good stuff here -- just too much of it -- but I've got to recommend the movie, nonetheless.|
Both movies under review are IFC Films releases.