S. Korea's 'Haunters' reviewed
By Marc Savlov,
8:37AM, Thu. Sep. 29, 2011
Is Seoul the next Hollywood? Judging by the amount and quality of South Korea's yearly offerings at Fantastic Fest, the answer is a resounding "예!" In years past FF has introduced audiences to South Korean directors Kim Jee-woon, Park Chan-wook, and Na Hong-jin. Now you can add Haunters director Kim Min-suk to our list of SoKo faves.
You could view Haunters as an Unbreakable-esque superhero origin story that combines oodles of violence, psychic powers, and a supercool fashion sense (seriously) into a unique hybrid whose parts are perhaps greater than the whole. Or you could think of it as a SoKo manga adaptation of a non-existenant manga. However you look at it, Haunters is flat-out unlike anything we've seen before. It may not always make sense (what's up with that ending, anyway?), but ultimately Haunters is just plain fantastic (no pun intended).
That has everything to do with the film's two leads, Koo So, as the everyman-ish Lim Kyu-nam, and Kang Dong-won as Cho In, the reed-thin, squinty-eyed, psychic badass out to ruin Lim's life after their paths inadvertently cross during a botched robbery. Recently out of the hospital after being struck by a truck, the seemingly hapless Lim leaves his job at an auto graveyard for a (marginally) more lucrative gig at a pawnshop. It's there that he first encounters Cho In, who has not only the power to cloud men's minds but also the ability to enslave masses of people do his mental bidding. Lim, for reasons that remain pleasingly unexplained, is able to resist Cho In's mindfuckery and foils his robbery plans, thus making an enemy for life. That life would be a lot shorter were it not for Manager Lim's two friends, Ghanian and Indian expats, respectively, who not only believe his wild tale but enlist to help him when it becomes clear that Cho In isn't keen on witnesses.
Director Kim manages to surprise at nearly every turn, setting up audience expectations and then gleefully knocking them down, one after another, like an intricate pattern of dominoes. Many questions (some would say plot holes) arise from the bullet-riddled proceedings, but Haunters is such fun -- and so strange -- that you find yourself just going with it. Wherever that may be.