Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In short: The Shackle (2000)

Screenwriter Yuchool spends most of his time writing lurid screenplays his producer doesn't want to touch because they are supposed to be too artsy. Not that he needs the job - the death of his parents some time ago has left him with quite a bit of money.

The rather disturbed man seems to have spent a part of it on his hobby room in the basement. There, he has space for alone time with his beloved mannequins and the women he first kidnaps, shackles and then rapes and kills every Sunday.

On weeknights, he plays the voyeur, watching his neighbour Sulchee and her husband making love. Sulchee is an important part of the creep's fantasy life in her role as is only great and secret love.

While Sulchee is friendly but obviously not at all interested in him as a lover in real life, her visiting sister Dalchee is (like some other women he completely ignores) just all over him. That's unfortunate for her and leads her to an early death when she says the wrong things about her sister to him.

After that killing, it won't take long until the psychopath feels the need to finally get close to his "beloved".

Myeong-hwa Jo's Saseul tries very hard to follow in the footsteps of the less pleasant parts of the Japanese pinku genre or some of the roman porn films of Yasuharu Hasebe, but somehow gets stuck at an awkward place just a bit too far from being truly disturbing and too close to being complicit with its protagonist.

There might be a very unpleasant streak of identification with the deranged main character running through the film, but at the same time this streak never gets strong enough to make one squirm while watching it.

This may sound like a good thing, but I don't think it really is. Trying to get the viewer to identify with the psycho, to feel queasy about sharing the position of the voyeur with him while being disgusted by his violence would be the trick that's needed here to get this jaded exploitation fan to feel more about the film than a combination of slight exasperation and boredom. Intellectually, I should have felt bad about sharing Yunchool's experiences, but instead just co-ogled the naked women, watched his mugging and felt slightly embarrassed.

There's something lacking in this film (and it's not the lack of empathy) I find difficult to put into words, I must admit. I suspect The Shackle just needed a few more scenes which tried to achieve some sort of twisted poetry, or violence that felt either more real or more artificial, something, anything to drag it out of the mire of slightly artsy, slightly unpleasant sexploitation into the weird, the wild or the dangerous.

I'm looking for a something committed to a little more than just breasts and chains in my exploitation. Alas The Shackle never really dared to deliver more.


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