Thursday, April 8, 2010

In short: Forbidden Floor (2006)

Single parent Min-Young (Kim Seo-hyeong) and her small daughter Joo-hee (Kim Yoo-jeong) move into an apartment in a rather shabby building.

It's a bit of a weird place, really. The creepy neighbour from the apartment directly below complains about noises the woman and her child are sure they don't make, strange creaking sounds come from the apartment's valves, and Min-Young develops a tendency to daydreams and visions of a long-haired female ghost spooking in a near-ruined version of her own home.

What happens to Min-Young is nothing compared to what her daughter has to go through, though. At first, Joo-hee only has strange chance encounters with a ghostly boy, but soon enough the girl starts to change from shy and rather sweet to an irrational hopping between aggressive and depressed. She also gets physically ill, showing allergic reactions against asbestos, a material that wasn't used in the construction of the building she spends all her time in.

The high number of deadly accidents in the house does nothing to keep Min-Young's peace of mind. After some time, she decides to just grab Joo-hee and flee to her sister, but the girl is absurdly reluctant to leave the house, and even after they have left, she's driven to come back.

Although Min-Young has never believed in ghosts, she is now absolutely convinced that the place is cursed. It is possible that everything she and her daughter are going through has something to do with their building's lack of a (unlucky like a 13th floor is supposed to be in other parts of the world) fourth floor.

Forbidden Floor is part of a series of films called "Four Horror Tales" that was shot for the South Korean DVD market. It is possibly the best of the four films, but that doesn't say much if you keep in mind we are talking about films like Dark Forest here.

If ever I wanted to describe something as "solid, yet unremarkable", this is it. As is too often the case, the film is seemingly concerned with nothing more than going through a checklist of all mandatory elements of Asian horror post Ringu. At times, it feels like a less intelligent version of Dark Waters, then turns into Phone light only to end on one of the more prosaic feeling explanations for a grudgeful ghost I have ever encountered.

It's not that the things that angered our lead ghost aren't terrible, the problem here is that the film's director Kwon Ho-young (that's at least the name Hancinema gives, IMDB is of a different opinion, but not a trustworthy source when it comes to South Korean cinema) just doesn't have the chops to make what happened to her feel in any way disturbing.

Kwon's direction is professional, yet without imagination or a sense for what makes a situation creepy or scary (hint: it's not jump scares), even though the film's material should warrant these feelings.

The moments of horror that do work do so on account of Kim Seo-hyeong and Kim Yoo-jeong who not only make a very convincing mother/daughter pair (I don't think they are related in real life, the shared last name notwithstanding) but at times also manage to convey the feeling of desperation and desolation Forbidden Floor needed more of to grip its viewers.


No comments: