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  Publicity Stills of "Cinderella"
Courtesy of Encore Films

Genre: Horror
Director: BONG Man-Dae
Starring: DO Ji-won, SHIN Se-kyung, AHN Kyu-ryon
RunTime: 1 hr 36 mins
Released By: GV & Encore Films
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 7 December 2006


Hyun-soo is a high school girl who is preparing for the college entrance exam to Art school. Even though her parents were divorced when she was young, she has never felt her father's absence as there is a perfect mother for her. Her mother is also a renowned plastic surgeon so she is never lonely, as she is surrounded by girls who want beauty consultations and cosmetic surgeries from her mother.

But her happiness soon comes to an end when her friends who had received cosmetic surgery from her mother starts to commit mysterious suicides by cutting out their own faces! She also starts to feel that there is someone else in the house where she lives alone with her mother.

Movie Review:

“Cinderella” does seem to be caught in two worlds while trying to find its footing. However, these worlds are not the ones where the living and the dead reside. It finds itself caught between the nets of two naturally opposing genres and becomes mired in a confusing sandpit that plagues the better part of the film’s running time. But it does manage to invoke deep and haunting themes of profound sadness that unfortunately might not be what the masses expect or more precisely want from a film that bills itself on pure terror.

Revolving around the relationship of a mother and daughter, it uses flashbacks and unknown secrets to explore the lines of abandonment and parental limits. Yoon-hee (Do Ji-won) runs a fairly successful cosmetic surgery clinic and consultation from her house that she shares with her art-school attending daughter, Hyun-soo (Shin Se-kyung). On the surface, it starts to seem like Yoon-hee wants to be her daughter’s best friend but finds more suitable companions by settling on Hyun-soo’s schoolmates when they show more interest in cosmetic surgery than the homely Hyun-soo does. Being a single parent and prone to over-compensating, Yoon-hee does have strict rules that intrigue Hyun-soo such as a strict curfew and the out-of-bounds attic.

While plastic surgery is the prevailing theme in the film, it hardly augurs a scathing social commentary from the director, Bong Man-dae even when ditzy girls start dying bloodily days after becoming acquainted with Hyun-soo’s scalpel. Being a premise without a backbone, it becomes flaccid early on and is relegated to being a plot device that only comes to the fore late into the story. Bong utilises the most commonly adhered to the linear approach by slowly revealing the whys and hows of the central mystery in each step, keeping the first half of the film entirely off pace with its latter half. As he tightens up the storytelling after the first revelation, his flair with the camera starts to become the film’s emerging strong suit.

While not being astonishingly original, Bong shows deft touches with the camera. His direct shots are unflinching and hold the attention when it finally lingers on the terror that it has been threatening to unleash. The brilliant use of shadows and vivid colours show such a strong eye for lensing escalating tones of suspense that it’s regrettable that its imaginative sequences are marred by the insistence on fusing melodrama with its horror.

While not juggling the two genres as well as it could, “Cinderella” does show a good handle on its characterisations with the mother/daughter relationship through the dialogue and a refreshing albeit brief look at religion within its characters’ actions. These touches suggest a thoughtfulness that is evident when it shows some real, and sincere emotional depths that underlines its essential flaw of making its horror aspect play second fiddle to its dramatics.

Movie Rating:

(The melodrama might not sit well with many but it does a credible job of crafting an engaging story with ounces of horror seeped in)

Review by Justin Deimen

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