Director: Byeon Seung-wook
Cast: Park Min-yeong, Kim Dong-wuk, Kim Ye-ron, Kim Min-jae
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Scorpio East Pictures
Rating: PG-13 (Some Disturbing Scenes)
Opening Day: 1 September 2011
Synopsis: So-yeon is an animal groomer who works in a pet shop. One day, she gets stuck with a Persian cat named Silky when its owner suddenly dies. From then on, So-yeon is constantly haunted by a bobbed hair girl with green cat-like eyes who turns her life turns into turmoil. So-yeon desperately seeks help from the people around, but no one listens to her. The presence of the girl and the sound of Silky’s cries start to choke in around her life more and more. Not only that, people around So-yeon gets killed one by one. Soon, So-yeon comes face to face with the bobbed hair girl at the scene of a horrific death.
So-yeon gets rid of Silky hoping her troubles will come to an end, but Silky keeps coming back to her like a boomerang. Terrified she could be the next to die, So-yeon sets out to find out the identity of the girl with the help her dead friend’s ex-boyfriend, Jun-seok, who is a cop. Later, So-yeon finds out the truth to the tragic incident that took place in the past.
Feline-lovers may be taken by a movie with a title like ‘The Cat’, but unless you have a strong heart, you’d be advised to stay clear of this. The latest Korean horror thriller from director Byun Seung-wook plays on common folklore that cats can see spirits around us that the naked eye cannot spot and in fact may even be vessels for spirits of the departed- so you may come out of the movie and find yourself thinking twice when you see your cat staring at thin air so intently as if something or someone were there.
That is the predicament facing our young protagonist, which as formula would have it, turns out to be a young reserved girl with issues of her own. So-yuen (Park Min-young) works as an animal groomer in a pet shop who encounters a white Persian cat named Silky owned by a plump middle-aged woman. Noticing a strange young girl with a bob cut consistently near the cat, she doesn’t think much of her suspicions until the owner dies in an apparent heart attack in the lift on her way home.
Rather than let Silky be abandoned, So-yuen brings the cat home- only to realise that the bob-haired girl she keeps seeing around the cat is in fact a vengeful spirit. In between multiple sightings of the girl (which director Seung-wook uses for the proverbial jump-scares), So-yuen also finds her close friend and her boss falling victim to the girl’s clutches- each encounter a tightly woven exercise in suspense and dread. Indeed, Seung-wook in his sophomore outing as director shows his adroitness in staging these horror sequences, gradually mounting the tension for his audience before springing the vice of death on his victims.
Seung-wook also proves to be a competent storyteller, drawing his audience into a web of intrigue while laying the pieces out one by one. At the heart of his story is the origin of the cat and the young girl whose spirit resides in it, and the film is especially adept at marking out the dots while letting you guess how they all connect together. Yet, Seung-wook’s good work at establishing a gripping pace throughout the movie is somewhat let down by the film’s revelation at the end, which doesn’t veer away from the usual ‘corpse that wants to be found’ denouement too common in similar genre material.
But more than just a horror mystery, Seung-wook’s film also serves as a cautionary tale for pet-owners, especially with the scenes set in an animal shelter So-yuen visits as part of her investigation. And if the thought of what happens to abandoned pets doesn’t prick your conscience, there’s also the fear the film may plant in you with the suspicion that you may just be setting yourself up for the wrath of your pet cat should you treat it with less than the dignity it deserves. Yes, don’t say we didn’t warn you, but some pet owners may not go away feeling as nonchalant.
Of course, the fact that it manages to unnerve is also testament to the film’s craft, which fashions a good-ol’ horror around widely held supernatural beliefs about cats. It may rely on genre tricks like sudden loud noises and ‘boo-scares’ to make you jump in your seat, but it remains engaging throughout thanks to a tightly-wound narrative that keeps you guessing pretty much till the end. And like we mentioned, if you have a pet cat, you may just think twice when you see it staring or snarling at thin air.
(Well-made Korean horror that packs the requisite scares and a tightly-wound narrative to keep you guessing)
Review by Gabriel Chong