Remember the days when you could rely on South Korea to provide a couple of really rather decent Horror movies each year? It has been a good few years since anything from this territory actually floated my Horror boat, but there were a couple of releases this year. Hopefully I can get to see “Horror Stories” soon, but for now, let’s have a look at Kim Dong-bin’s latest attempt. I’ll be honest, part of the attraction was to see if Park Han-byul had blossomed into a decent actress (it is a long and complicated story, but she has an indirect connection to how this blog became Asian Cinema themed, and whilst she is far from the greatest actress, I do like to keep abreast of her career).
“Two Moons” starts off by a voiceover telling us that when there are two moons in the sky, that the physical world and the Spirit world are joined. Then we meet our three protagonists – twenty something Seok-ho (Kim Ji-suk), perky and somewhat whiney student In-jeong (Park Jin-joo) and Horror Novelist So-hee (Park Han-byul). They awaken in a darkened room, with no memory of how they got there. After discovering they are alone, and despite So-hee telling them to stay to the sun comes up, Seok-ho and In-jeong attempt to escape to safety through the woods. but fail miserably. When they return, they meet another woman, who is obviously distressed, and starts accusing So-hee of being a murderer. So-hee doesn’t help her case by constantly disappearing. The woman suddenly shows she is quite capable of wielding a knife herself, leading to a number of attacks. Slowly, and after constant questioning from So-hee, Seok-ho and In-jeong start to remember more of what happened before they woke up here, and slowly the mystery becomes unravelled.
Guess what? As hard as I’ve tried to be as obtuse as possible in my synopsis, anyone who has seen a handful of Asian ghost stories, or indeed anything made post “The Sixth Sense” is going to work out what’s going on here within 10 minutes. I’ve spoiled enough, but my point is, don’t come here for originality. Although, in fairness, it does manage to have a little extra dimension that would normally be executed via “Blair Witch” shaky-cam, so kudos to it for not going down that particular path.
Whilst the film isn’t exactly big budget, and lots if it are filmed in near darkness, it isn’t without some charm. The Night Vision sequence certainly works as a tension filled set piece, and you’d be heartless not to admire the little nods to “Psycho” (a certain music cue) and “The Exorcist” (at least one if the most famous deleted scenes). It doesn’t go overboard with homage, but at least we don’t have a long haired vengeful female ghost on our hands. It’s got atmosphere, and it’s certainly not lacking in some minor shocks. A gore fest it certainly is not, but then that’s not what I look for in a proper ghost story.
Performances by all the cast are fine, with everyone getting time to showcase their character, and I was especially taken by Park Jin-joo, who went from annoying to perky to creepily flirty to breakdown in a believable way.
It’s got problems though. Again trying hard not to spoil things, the film is really lacking in any kind of originality. Even the aspect of exactly what is going on takes an absolute age to be explored, and is delivered in a way that is unnecessarily oblique. Even when it becomes clear that things maybe are not going as planned, and maybe there’s a heightened sense of danger here, the film struggles to express this, because it’s trying so bloody hard to keep Oz behind the curtain… And to be honest, it really doesn’t need to. The other issue was the strange way the film ended. The obvious climax is followed by a final explanation of what exactly has gone before, basically ending the movie at the exact point it started. Whilst this is nice for symmetry, it means the film ends not with a bang, but with a bit of a whimper. Swap the final two sequences around and I think nothing would have been lost, and maybe it would have worked just a little better.
But, despite all this? Maybe it’s just a bad time for horror in Asia, but I really rather enjoyed it. Sure I’ve seen this all before, but it’s not completely dumb, and there’s plenty here to enjoy. It could have been a heck of a lot worse, and its worst crime is appearing to be a little smarter than it actually is. It is a Haunted House story, with a little touch of the present day, and didn’t need to hide its hand quite so much. So whilst it may not linger in the memory, I’m going to give this one a Recommended.