Cinderella (US - DVD R1)
After all that nipping and tucking Gabe has no energy to deal with ghosts...
Hyunsu is a teenage girl coddled by her single mother, who happens to be a plastic surgeon. One of Hyunsu's best friends is driven insane and bloodily kills herself after what seems to be a successful chin-tuck. Soon all of Hyunsu's friends are looking into plastic surgery for themselves, and dying mysterious deaths. Hyunsu looks into her own past and discovers a dark secret that ties the violent events together.
South Korea has absorbed many of the Western World's finest assets and achievements, as well as some of its worst habits. Plastic surgery is one of our most nasty habits. Unnecessary medicinal practices of any kind are usually reprehensible, but in the case of simple vanity it's especially depressing, and horrifying. Medicine itself is an upsetting subject, but plastic surgery is an especially upsetting subset, because the psychological implications of Body Dismorphic Disorder are ripe for terror. It's not surprising that Cinderella isn't the first horror movie to exploit the subject, but the fact that it's a Korean made film is interesting from an anthropological standpoint.
The film Cinderella isn't quite as interesting as its subject and culture may indicate, and the real allegory is pretty deeply buried, but it's still a decent scary night at the movies. Like all the Korean films I get in the mail from Tartan Asia Extreme, it has a visual advantage over thrillers from other areas of the Far East. Its images are rich in detail and broad colours, its cinematography unnaturally graceful. But like so many Asian ghost stories it comes down to long, involved set pieces in the dark, simplistic, twisty murder mystery plotting, and creepy looking white-faced girls with long black hair.
The story this time around is an especially disturbing one at its distilled base, though the 'twist' is especially easy to guess at the half-way point, so the big reveal doesn't quite work (not to mention some science defying convolutions). I suppose that the title is an indication of the mid-film events, but I still would rather not give everything away, rest assured it's emotionally icky, and is sold by some outstanding acting from all of our leads. The scares didn't make me jump, but I was really creeped out by the real-life possibilities of the plot.
Minus the supernatural elements, and perhaps told with the twist known from the beginning (or at least earlier), Cinderella could've been a mini-classic, instead it's just a decent addition to an overstuffed sub-genre.
Here's another weird one from Tartan Asia Extreme. The overall image here is decent, and blacks are gorgeously rich. The print seems to deteriorate as the film progresses. Colours become less vibrant, details soften, and noise more constant. Sometimes things turn back towards the better, and the image quality is never awful, but there is an obvious fluctuation in quality. The print is also suffers from a strange ailment I'm not sure I've ever seen before. On my TV, which has slightly rounded corners, I didn't notice that as the film progresses the corners of the frame begin to round. On my screen caps this is clear as day. It's very strange, but didn't affect my viewing experience.
The DTS and Dolby Digital Korean tracks are, as per the usual, almost identical, with the DTS being the louder of the two. Both tracks are solid and impressive. The film isn't full of surround effects, but there is the occasional ghostly rear channel exercise, and the score is quite rich. Cinderella is another in what seems to be a long line of modern Korean motion pictures that have an obsession with the Baroque, in music and imagery. In this case Vivaldi is the art forms most prominent representation, though the film's original music evokes a similar feeling.
The usual Tartan featurette is a little thicker this time around, in both content and runtime. The filmmakers and actors run down the filmmaking process for us, and surprisingly enough this doesn't seem to be an elongated ad for the film. The footage itself is pretty dull, fly-on-the-wall stuff, including a child actor messing up her lines over and over and over, but some of it is amusing, and it gets credit for not being an elongated trailer. Speaking of trailers, a few of those round out the disc.
Not a classic, but a worthy addition to any K-Horror library (if you're the type of person that keeps one of those), Cinderella is well acted, well shot, and its story creepy enough to raise a couple neck hairs. Somewhere around the half way point it becomes an infinitely more interesting film, but still doesn't quite deliver on what could've been a truly and deeply disturbing premise.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 10th April 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 Korean, Dolby Digital 5.1 Korean
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Making of, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Bong Man-dae
Cast: Ahn Ah-yung, Ahn Gyu-ryun, Jeon So-min, Shin Se-Kyeong
Length: 94 minutes
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