If you created a drinking game in connection with the new Korean film, Arang — every time you see an A-horror cliché, you down a shot — you'd be hammered at the 10 minute mark.
Within the first four minutes of the movie, we see: uniformed school girls, a ghost child, an eyeless face, a haunted computer, an evil website, and exponentially growing black hair that envelopes and kills. There's a bit of a break, then 10 minutes into the movie, the "unexplainable distorted still photography" chestnut is trotted out. Murderous mothers with baby issues come in at 13 minutes… you get the idea.
The serial-killer / ghost with a grudge story introduces our heroes, veteran homicide detective So-young (Song Yoon Ah) and her rookie partner Hyun-gi (Lee Dong Wook), and follows them on their dangerous journey to catch not only the mortal killer but to bottle the specter's seething rage.
Here's a character-driven twist: So-young is tough, cynical and seasoned, while Hyun-gi is eager, slightly goofy and idealistic.
Their investigation leads them to an isolated town called Salt Village (because that's where they manufacture and store the brackish seasoning). It just so happens there's an old woman living there, who knows some secrets which lead to the discovery that the murder of a teen 10 years ago (complete with a tedious flashback sequence) is somehow tied in with the present-day serial murders and ghostly visitations.
A lot of the killings take place in bathrooms (like, the shower — how original. Somewhere, Alfred Hitchcock's spirit is high-fiving Takashi Shimizu) and we see the usual abundance of ebony tresses, blood-weeping eyes, and banshees that pop up out of nowhere.
The movie is slickly photographed and decently acted, but the captioning is pretty terrible making the dialogue seem not just stilted, but often ridiculously unnatural. English dubbing is not available.
Even though the film is a mere 97 minutes long, it feels much, much longer (even longer than the black hair!).
= = =Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson