Director: Lim Dae-Woong
Cast: Baek Do-bin, Jo Jae-yoon, Kim Yunjin, Ok Taec-yeon, Park Jun-myeon, Lee Han-wi, Park Sang-hoon
Runtime: 1 hr 41 mins
Released By: mm2 Entertainment and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 25 May 2017
Synopsis: After serving 25 years in prison for charges of killing her husband and son, Mi-hee returns to her derelict home. A young priest visits her and asks what really happened the night she supposedly murdered her family. She tells him, “they killed my husband and took my child.” The priest digs into the archive and finds several strange articles dating back 75 years ago. He uncovers mysterious similarities in each case. They all happened on November 11, exactly 25 years apart. That fateful night, it was November 11 1992 and Mi-hee knew she was not alone in the house.
This might be the first time I’ve seen more ladies than men at a horror screening. No doubt the strapping Ok Taec Yeon had something to do with this.
In House of the Disappeared, Mi-hee (Kim Yunjin) goes under house arrest after a 25-year jail-term sentence for murdering her husband and presumably her missing son. But all is not what it seems. Mi-hee returns to the house with a palpable sense of anticipation - the maligned mother is eager to uncover the real mystery of her disappeared son and murdered spouse.
Taec Yeon enters the story as Choi, an inquisitive priest from her local church. Even though she has given up her Catholic faith after what happened, Choi probes into her odd behaviour, and eventually helps Mi-hee in her quest, discovering something deeper is afoot.
Director Lim Dae-woong shows potential in his mind-boggling korean horror. The art direction, sets, actors and story all exhibit finesse, making House of the Disappeared a meaty-enough thriller. The editing displayed is top-notch. The intercuts between crime story and post-jail mystery is seamless and stunning. It moves the story in a compelling way, making parallels of discoveries one after another.
The story works also largely because Lim has kept it well-paced, supported by an engaging unraveling. The supernatural occurrences suggest this is not your standard haunting, something which gets fully resolved at the end as pieces get put together, and a large peculiar device in the house is explained.
That said, the makeup department needs some muscle. The ghosts appear more sickly humans than spooky apparition, reducing the impact of the scares. There was plenty of room to push - the twin girls, the angry geisha - their appearances could have been more startling and horrific, if they hadn’t been painted like a caricature.
In one of the best sequences, a shamanic ritual builds to a climax, before the inevitable happens. The full reckoning, is again sadly softened by the amateurish cosmetics on the actors. The cartoonish application reminds me of the unfortunate ghouls in the horror franchise series Insidious.
Maybe more time was spent rendering Mi-hee an aged mother, and although the finer details of her wrinkles and age freckles turn up impressively, her stiff grey wig and awkward body movements fail to convince fully.
But overall, House of the Disappeared still works well. Korean horror hasn’t had a good mystery horror in a while, and Lim’s newest film is a good effort in the right direction.
(Mystery and horror work favourably in this offering, with a good premise and closed-ended finish to satisfy most)
Review by Morgan Awyong