Publicity Stills of "The Wig"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

Genre: Horror/Thriller
Director: Won Shin-yeon
Starring: Chae Min Seo, Yoo Sun, Moon Soo
RunTime: 1 hr 46 mins
Released By: Shaw & Festive Films
Rating: TBA

Opeing Day: 13 October 2005


The sisters and a terrible present

In the dark hospital room lies a present for Soohyun, a dying cancer patient. It is a beautiful wig, which Jihyun has prepared for her. Admiring the beauty of the wig, Soohyun slowly puts it on. In no time, the reflection of Soohyun in the mirror transforms into an attractive woman full of vitality, and a mysterious power falls on her.

Punishment by the wig

Jihyun feels uneasy with Soohyun’s mysteriously rapid recovery from the day she puts on the wig. Soohyun now seems to have become a completely different person and her attitude toward Jihyun’s ex-boyfriend Kiseok is not quite the same as in the past. In addition, Kyungjoo, a friend of Soohyun who has borrowed her wig, is savagely murdered, and now Soohyun murmurs unintelligible words. Something is happening to Soohyun and Jihyun is afraid of her lovely sister.

And the curse of the wig falls on the sisters….

Movie Review:

Many horror films employ the use of an element that hinge on the fears of the audience. In Hideo Nakata’s “Dark Water” (2002) and “Ringu” (1998), it is the water element and the fear of mysterious beings that crept out from the tube respectively. In Yong Ki-Jeong’s “The Doll Master” (2004), the presence of the life-like dolls that bears a close resemblance to humans will chill the audience to the bone when it blinks, grin and move. Similarly, in Won Sin-Yeon’s “The Wig” (2005), the director employs the use of the wig to create the scare. This is especially spine-tingling when one imagines a wig that is superimposed in a darkroom on a dress, moves up a stairway with a life of its own and possess its owner when it’s worn.

Elements aside, Korean horror films seems to have undergone a few changes in recent years.

While previously the directors chose to use scare tactics to frighten the audience by horrific imagery and high-pitch screams that portrays reality, most Korean directors now use the same techniques in a different way: gruesome images that manifests itself in dreams and hallucinations rather than reality. In so doing, the directors are now inadvertently separating reality from the shocking illusionary images portrayed onscreen. If the audiences are sharp enough to see the demarcation between reality and hallucinations, they will be able to separate the two entities. “The Wig” has evidence of such a practice. The film thus becomes more petrifying. One reason may be attributed to the fact that sometimes, our imagination may be more disturbing than any other reality that we are in.

Korean horror films have also increased their emphasis on sentimentality. It begins with Kim Ji-Woon’s “A tale of Two Sisters” (2004), continues with Kim Dong Bin’s “Ghost Train” (2005) and “The Wig” falls next in line in this series of sentimental horror, running parallel to the filming techniques of Walter Salles’s “Dark Water” (2005). While the segregation of hallucinations from reality raises the fear factor bar, the focus on sentimentality is a mistake. It slows down the plot and kills the suspense. Unlike films such as “Shutter” (2004) (where the audience are given a visual treat to unnerving images at strategically-timed intervals, “The Wig” fails to sustain the tension and the film winds up being a test of the audience’s patience as it progresses.

The cast is powerful though. Especially noteworthy is Chae Min-Seo, who plays the cancer-stricken patient who develops an obsession with a wig given by her sister (Yoo Seon). Be it being the depressed victim of a terminal disease or taking the role of the twisted alter ego of her original personality, Min-Seo plays her role to near perfection. Yoo Seon also gives a strong supporting performance as Min-Seo’s elder sister with her nubile allure and tortured sense of being.

This film scores in terms of its theme of sisterly love, akin to “A Tale of Two Sisters”. It might be better received if this film were to be shown as a social drama. As a horror film, it didn’t quite make the mark. The scary moments are inserted to scare the audience and not to make a point. It also doesn’t have memorable moments such as the figure-crawling-out-from-TV scene in “Ringu” for audience to remember by. This weakens the film to a certain degree.

Nevertheless, for those movie-goers who loves sentimentality, the strong cast do have the clout to hold the film together. And for those who love heart-wrenching moments, the finale should leave you leaving the theatre teary-eyed.

Movie Rating:

('A Tale of Two Sisters’ with a wig thrown in for good measure)

Review by Patrick Tay


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