Director: Doo Lee
Cast: Ryu Deok-hwan, Jo Bok-rae, Lee So-bin
Runtime: 1 hr 28 mins
Released By: Clover Films and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 1 December 2016
Synopsis: VJ Glow is the MC of the hit horror-based online channel ‘Glow World.’ In order to earn balloon points (the channel’s online currency), VJ Glow looks for stories, urban legends and haunted places to showcase on his show. One day he stumbles upon a frightening video of the unsolved mystery of a high school girl who goes missing while playing one-man tag - a new form of hide-and-seek that is trending online. One-man tag is said to bring ghosts out of their hiding, and in the video, the high school girl slowly goes mad while playing this game. VJ Glow senses a hot exclusive and begins an episode about searching the girl. His deadly game of one-man tag is played out live on his channel.
Money and fame is to be had on the online world. And in the fictional world of afreecaTV, a channel specialising in horror named “Glow World” is chalking up some interest. The host of the channel, VJ Glow (Ryu Deok-hwan) is a douchebag skeptic, who bulldozes any possible spirits with his bravado and rapid-fire mouth. His partner-in-crime is the long-suffering Producer Park (Jo Bok-rae), often targeted by VJ Glow for false scares and teasing.
In their attempt to rack up viewership and balloons (the channel’s online currency), the duo scours for horrific stories to investigate, as they livestream their explorations in creepy forests and abandoned buildings.
Dry on material, they stumble upon a video of a high school girl playing a viral game called “One-Man Tag”. The footage suggests strong supernatural influence and as they investigate, they realise that they might be a little in over their unprepared heads.
Hide And Never Seek does a Blair Witch, with the found footage concept supported by marketing materials and references to this film being “based on real broadcast...in 2015”. The film shuffles between footage shot from locations, a mounted cam on VJ Glow and various other outlets. Luckily, the usual shaking is kept to a minimum, and the usual screen is one that is split between the VJ doing his commentary and a chat scrolling on the right.
Because the text is lost in translation, some moments are less effective. There’s once when the VJ asks the viewers if he should embark on a particularly dangerous mission, we have to wait for his delayed reaction to get an indication. That said, the presence of the viewers and their frenetic texting does add a refreshing “live” element to the ongoings.
When VJ and Park hunts down the missing girl, the game of “One-Man Tag” becomes a little clearer. Left a little vague, the terrifying game is supposed to summon a dead spirit to play with you - with a ritual that involves you stuffing a doll with hair and fingernails, plunging it with water, switching off lights, stabbing the doll, as well as hiding in a room to let the doll find you. All this, presumably, for bragging rights - and in this case, for the unpopular girl Sun-Young (Lee Soo-Bin) to gain some quick fame.
All this turns sour real fast when the girl filming the doll goes missing - leaving the final step of the ritual unfinished and the spirit free to roam and haunt the library and Sun-Young. As VJ Glow and Park gets pulled into the location where things happen, more discoveries are made.
Of all the elements in Hide And Never Seek, the location has got to be the creepiest. A derelict library with flapping sheets and disused furniture always makes the mind wander, and see things where there aren’t. Unfortunately, the real scares never really came; a shame given certain moments really played itself up - like the one where the VJ pokes his nose into some abandoned scaffolding.
Another choice scene was one where the VJ realises the false doll they had rigged was missing, and in cold sweat, decides to abort the mission fearing the worst.
Sadly, Director Lee Doo-hwan does not give us a good pay-off after these episodes, and continued to throw “discoveries” that blunted the scene. Also, his attempt at layering the story was just overworked, especially after the girl appears midway, seemingly with an agenda of her own.
Even right at the end, when all was revealed, the first revelation (with an ode to both Dark Waters and The Changeling) proved to be of more impact than the subsequent ones, when the entity finally goes all out to consume the victims. At that point, it had the unfortunate effect of raising more questions than it answered, so I was left more puzzled than satisfied.
(A simple story that harnesses a refreshing platform tries to terrify, with a spooky viral game and supernatural mystery, but finds itself seeking better scares)
Review by Morgan Awyong