Saturday, 29 November 2008

The Red Shoes

I've just watched a Korean horror movie that is 1. half an hour too long and 2. visually stunning while seriously lacking in originality. It's not to be confused with the 1948 British ballet movie The Red Shoes, with Moira Shearer. This 2005 shocker is typical East Asian horror, lifting ideas from most of its illustrious predecessors. Thus we get the vengeful ghost (Ring, Phone), the curse (Ring, The Grudge), the troubled mother-daughter relationship (Dark Water), the seriously twisted twist ending (A Tale of Two Sisters, Shutter), the normal bloke who falls for the strange woman (Audition), and the long haired female apparition (almost all of 'em, really). 

That said, The Red Shoes is not bad as entertainment if you don't expect too much. I could have done without the explicit horror - too much blood, gallons of it in fact. But I enjoyed the symbolism of the red shoes, which appear mysteriously on or near a subway in Seoul. They are linked, we gradually learn through a series of flashbacks and the usual detective work, to a very nasty incident that occurred during World War 2 when Korea was part of the Japanese empire. Indeed, these glimpses of Korean history are among the best bits of the film. I could have done with more of the ballet sequence, supposedly dating from 1944, in which dancers depict the inevitable triumph of the rising sun.

Anyway, there's a very good review here that says everything I want to say. By all means rent this one, but don't expect too much. Some good performances, certainly, but don't get your hopes up. East Asian horror really is a triumph of recycling nowadays. When it's visually good, it's watchable, but I'm not sure whether the same old angry ghosts can be trotted out indefinitely. Also, the use of elevators, flickering flourescent tubes, stupidly dark apartments/corridors and women with hair hanging over their faces has now become as cliched as the Gothic romance conventions of flickering candles, wicked uncles, comical ladies' maids, sudden thunderstorms and castles with secret passages. Enough, already. Here's a trailer.

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