Friday, August 19, 2016

Worth Mentioning - From Asia with Blood

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.


Cody and Priscilla take in a double feature of South Korean slashers that have "Bloody" in the title.


This article has been in the planning stages for a while. Back in February of 2014, Priscilla and I wrote a Worth Mentioning about the South Korean horror movie Phone, which was one movie among several that she sent to me as a Christmas/birthday present in 2013. Also in that batch of films were the two we're discussing today, Bloody Beach and Bloody Reunion. I've had them in my possession for a couple years now, thanks to Priscilla, and this seemed like the perfect time to get around to writing about them - it's summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and both of these movies are set at the beach.

BLOODY BEACH (2000)

A slasher movie out of South Korea, Bloody Beach fits into a sub-genre of horror that had its golden days in the '80s, but its characters are brought together by something modern and what was at the time of production very new - they're all members of a chat room community.

Having gotten to know each other online, members of a chat room decide to meet in person for a nice get-together. The first member of this group that we see is a girl named Do-yeon, and we follow her journey to the designated meeting spot of a train station, which she has to catch a train to get to.

Do-yeon is introduced while doing a bouncy little finger dance in front of her computer screen. This is really the only moment in which the movie attempts to make her seem cute, quickly taking her so far in the other direction that we're even privy to the sight of her having a bowel movement (with her knees to her chest) while smoking a cigarette in the train lavatory.

That scene seemed so gross and out of place when I watched the movie for the first time. I'm still not sure what was meant to be accomplished by showing her "special" position while using the toilet.


Do-yeon is still on the toilet when the train reaches its destination and the other passengers disembark, making her easy prey for a knife-wielding, hat-wearing, shadowy figure called Sandmanzz, who had texted a message to her when she got on the train: "Have fun on your final trip."

Other than her sparkly top, Do-yeon seems to be pretty nasty. First she makes sure not to sit by a girl - who turns out to be one from her group - then the whole bathroom/cigarette situation. Not a very lovely person, it seems.

As Do-yeon is murdered on the train, her chat buddies Nam-kyeong and Yu-na are meeting up outside the train.

This is the typical slasher movie beginning, and I like it very much. Made me eager to keep watching the movie, during my first viewing.


The others go on to meet with the rest of the group, which ends up consisting of four guys; Won-il, Sang-tae, Jung-min, and Jae-seung; and three girls; Yu-na, Nam-kyeong, and Young-woo.

I've had in-person meetings with a few different people I've met online, including trips to Brazil to visit Priscilla, and thankfully I've never run into any catfish shenanigans. Everyone has been who they said they were. That seems to be the case with this group, except for Young-woo.

I've been lucky so far as well. Only pleasant situations when meeting people I first met online.

Young-woo had described herself as a guy online, so the "I'm a girl" reveal comes as a disappointment to Nam-kyeong, who had hoped to hook up with "him".

The group settles into a beachside house that Won-il spends summers at and proceeds to frolic in the surf, cruise in a speedboat, go scuba diving, play on the beach, and make a sand computer, all while pondering who might hook up with who. And they wonder where that fourth girl, Do-yeon, is. We know she'll never show up.


I love the beach house, and the group seems to be having a truly fun day. The sand keyboard is way too big for the sand computer though.

The girls share a room, and while the others change clothes to get ready to hit the beach, Nam-kyeong surreptitiously points her video camera at them, recording their nudity to MiniDV.

Nam-kyeong will turn out to be the film's heroine, but I have to admit that when I was watching her do things like this, I definitely didn't have her pegged as the final girl.

This is not something - straight - girls usually do. That scene seems a little too weird for me.

The good times nearly become very bad when Nam-kyeong almost drowns while scuba diving, but Won-il saves her life and they get back to the fun. Nam-kyeong is in a down mood for a while after that, though, and when she falls asleep on the beach she dreams of being stabbed to death by Sandmanzz.

Apparently she's a bit psychic, dreaming about exactly the sort of thing that she's about to experience. That's odd, but the shot of Sandmanzz backlit by the sun is pretty great.

I also love how the bloody sand looks. Really cool moment.


We find out that Sandmanzz was the screen name of a mysterious, unpopular member of the chat room whose entire world was the internet. He was especially obsessed with Nam-kyeong. She didn't like him, but he would sit in the chat room all day just waiting for her to show up.

Now that's something I have somewhat experienced in the past, and it's not fun. Thankfully I live far away, and the "stalker" seems to have moved on.

I've heard lots of stories about creepy guys giving girls unwanted levels of attention online. If you want to be friends with a girl, you have to not be a creep. If you're nice enough, they might even write blog articles with you.

If only all the guys I met online were as great as Cody.

Sandmanzz is now believed to be dead, having committed suicide after being banned from the chat community. That was an event that kept Nam-kyeong from getting on the internet for a long time after. The mere mention of Sandmanzz stirs up violent arguments and hard feelings among the partiers, and he tends to be brought up by the moody Jae-seung, who is seen suspiciously lurking around the computer before the group starts getting notes and e-mails accusing them of being bad people who are responsible for the death of Sandmanzz.


Jae-seung says he didn't like Sandmanzz, either, but he wants the others to face up to the fact that they didn't treat him right. Sang-tae hated himself so much that he even spread lies about him using another user name to help get him banned, and suspects that he may have faked his suicide just to mess with them.

The fact that Jae-seung keeps bringing Sandmanzz up would appear to make him the prime suspect, but it also almost rules him out because it would be too obvious.

We don't really know if Sandmanzz is someone from the group or someone we haven't been introduced to. It's really not clear yet.

While uploading pictures taken throughout the day, Nam-kyeong finds a picture of herself sleeping on the beach. Taken while she was having that nightmare. Jae-seung was the one who woke her...

After night falls, the slasher killer calling themselves Sandmanzz begins picking off the chat community members one-by-one, starting with the horny Yu-na and masturbation addict Jung-min, who go off into the nearby woods together to have sex.

Slasher clich├ęs, South Korean style! No matter what country it comes from, this sort of stuff works for me.

Same here. I love it!


Is it really Sandmanzz himself seeking revenge, or is it someone avenging him? Realizing that the killer may be one of them, the group tries to smoke them out by watching each other log into their e-mail accounts to see who has received messages from Sandmanzz. Whoever hasn't must clearly be Sandmanzz!

I liked this sequence a lot, mainly because I felt like it was a technological twist on the blood test scene in John Carpenter's The Thing.

The test seems to get results, but the group continues to get knocked off even after they have subdued the person they believe is responsible.

Unlike characters in many other horror movies, the group is able to get a call out to the police. It doesn't help, though. The police were sent to the wrong address. Chasing after and falling far behind the police car, Nam-kyeong sees a motorcycle coming down the road toward her and instantly assumes the biker must be the killer. He's not, but he pays the price for being in the area.

The biker scene is a bit strange. I've always wondered whether or not it was meant to be that way - so you'd only know he wasn't the killer at the last second - or if he was meant to be involved somehow.

He may not be the killer, but he definitely acts suspiciously, getting off the bike and approaching Nam-kyeong. He has CSC printed on his helmet and I'm not sure what that means, I don't think he's just some random traveler.


Nam-kyeong witnesses the death of the biker at the hands of the true slasher, and that's when the killer reveals their identity to the object of Sandmanzz's unrequited affections...

I take back what I said earlier about there being no catfish shenanigans. This is the worst catfish situation ever!

I did not guess the killer the first time. Very good acting and directing for sure.

Speaking of acting, it's one of my favorite aspects of Bloody Beach. And I love how even though all personalities are represented, some characters are more than meet the eye. The girl group has Do-yeon who I'm sure would've been "the bitch" had she been around long enough, Yu-na who's the one who dresses sluttier and is more clearly into guys, Young-woo who is more of a bland character, kind of childish, still growing into herself, and Nam-kyeong who's not your obvious final girl. I think she might have been into girls, which would explain her filming the other girls changing, and her less than girly bathing suit and clothes in general.

For the guys we have Won-il, who's the nice one; Jung-min who's the horny one; Jae-seung who's the moody one and Sang-tae who's the bland male character. And when you think you know exactly who they all are, think again...


Bloody Beach was part of the resurgence of the slasher that was the world's response to the success of the Scream movies, but it doesn't fall into the trap of trying to copy Scream's tone or its self-referential humor, and even though it has the same sort of ending that the Scream movies had, where the killer is revealed and decides to have a chat with the final girl, Scream didn't exactly create that sort of climax. 

Although it did come out around that time, I don't get a "carbon copy" vibe from Bloody Beach at all. Not only when compared to Scream, but any other slasher. Sure, the elements are all very familiar whether you've seen one or a hundred slasher movies, but the movie is its own thing, and it delivers.

In movies like this, it is kind of strange how killers are able to act sane so well throughout the film, but when they reveal themselves they become over-the-top nuts.

That's just to make sure they aren't the obvious, number one suspect. There is no way someone so crazy would be able to act normally for that long. Unless they were on magical meds that stop working right away if you don't take them.

Delivered in a straightforward manner by director In Soo Kim, this is, despite the fact that its simple screenplay somehow required the efforts of five writers to bring it together, a standard slasher tale that updates the sub-genre for the year 2000.

Other than the biker scene, nothing feels off to me. They were able to create a very nice and effective slasher.


Having been a webmaster and moderator of message boards for well over a decade, I can relate to the story told here. I banned several troublemakers in my day, and thankfully things never went the way they go in this film. The arguments among the characters about how the Sandmanzz situation was handled in the chat room rang true with me, as I was involved with many discussions about how members should be dealt with. Since these discussions were never held in person, they never devolved into a fistfight, as they do among the characters here.

I have experienced that a few times as well. Most of the time when something like that happens, you just feel thankful that people can't reach out and grab each other's throats. But on the other hand, some - if not most - people who act tough, and are internet bullies are just that. They wouldn't confront anyone in person, they'd just run away scared.

With some great, shadowy cinematography, good stalking scenes, and a couple well handled gory attacks, Bloody Beach may not rank among the greatest of the slashers, but it's a strong entry in the sub-genre that is well worth watching if you enjoy a nice stalk and slash.

Keeping in mind that 90% of Asian horror involves ghosts in one way or another, Bloody Beach is something different. I would say it's one of my favorites, not only for being unique, but because it has all of the elements I look for in a slasher. Good story, interesting kills, mystery surrounding the killer's identity, a group of believable characters. It doesn't disappoint, and I always recommend it to people who love horror, especially slasher movies.



BLOODY REUNION (2006)

A very moody and dark South Korean horror film, Bloody Reunion begins with a series of fragmented flashbacks: a glimpse into the classroom of Mrs. Park, where her young students show a fondness for her; the pregnant teacher going into labor while her students play; the birth of her deformed son; the boy's father being so disturbed by him that he hangs himself, mere feet away from the young child.

When I first watched Bloody Reunion, I felt like this way of telling the story might have spoiled things for me, but I was wrong. A lot more goes on that we simply cannot anticipate, and with that in mind, the first couple of minutes work as they should.

It's like we get a trailer for the film's back story up front. The move will delve deeper into that stuff as it goes along, but these two and half minutes tell the story pretty well.

The beginning also sets the tone for the rest of the movie, which is a lot more serious and harsh than Bloody Beach.


Flashbacks are the film's primary mode of storytelling, flashbacks that we're shown as one of the survivors of a bloody massacre at a seaside home tells a police officer what led to the brutal murders. The woman telling the story is Mi-ja, who was taken in by the owner of the home, a beloved school teacher from her childhood, Mrs. Park, one year earlier when she had nowhere else to go. For the last year, Mi-ja had been taking care of Mrs. Park, as the middle-aged former teacher was consigned to a wheelchair by a nerve condition. In an attempt to raise Mrs. Park's spirits, Mi-ja invited several of her former students to have a reunion at their teacher's home.

As we're shown some of the former students driving to Mrs. Park's it becomes very clear that some of these people shouldn't be behind wheels at all. Scary stuff.

Although Mrs. Park seems perfectly nice at this point in her life and was clearly at one time well liked by her students, we soon come to realize that they each have major issues with their old teacher.

Their problems with her are so extreme, I'm left confused as to why any of them would have shown up for the reunion to begin with, and why they still hold her in such high regard.

I wouldn't have gone to visit with a person that was so mean and rude to me, I have to say. But it's all about culture. What's expected in Asia is that you'll still respect the elderly, especially since it's their former teacher, now disabled. It's difficult for us to understand, but mostly they're able to appreciate "tough love" if it means it'll help them do better in any way.


Engaged couple Eun-young and Se-ho are insulted that Mrs. Park looked down on them for being poor. Dar-bong sports a permanent leg injury from Mrs. Park forcing him to do squats, and she wasn't even the gym teacher. Soon-hee, who seems to never remove her sunglasses, has lived her life obsessed with her weight and looks since Mrs. Park mocked her for being obese. Jung-won experienced a devastating day in her classroom.

While watching these scenes of arrivals and characters getting reacquainted, I start to notice that director Dae-wung Lim took a very unconventional approach to the direction of this film. Sometimes the camera isn't stabilized when you would normally expect it to be. The shooting style really draws attention to itself in scenes where the camera is constantly zooming in and out.

It's almost distracting, but somehow its uniqueness works quite well.

It's so unusual that it's effective at setting me on edge, but it also borders on annoying.


The facade of pleasantries the former students put on for Mrs. Park soon begins to crumble, starting when Soon-Hee gets dangerously close to pushing the woman off a cliff while telling her of the body issues her criticism caused.

A drunken Se-ho explodes with rage over how she used to treat them and how it has negatively affected their entire lives. Dar-bong, also drunk, confronts her about his limp.

There's a lot of alcohol being passed around at this get-together. Frequently a recipe for disaster, especially when there's anger mixed with it.

And Se-ho started early. He'd been drinking since he arrived.

Much like Soon-Hee, Eun-young nearly causes Mrs. Park's death when the woman is put in her care. In this case, she almost allows the woman to drown in the bath tub while reminiscing about the past.


Most of the students' issues with Mrs. Park stem from her motto, "Warm your friends with bitterness not sweet." Meaning she tells them things that she feels will help them in their lives, not just things they want to hear.

Basically, she just came up with a motto to use to defend herself when she's called out for being a total shrew.

But again... different cultures. Some people actually appreciate that type of "motivation".

But that has no bearing on the worst transgression she's accused of. There is suspicion that Mrs. Park used to sexually molest the student that was "teacher's pet",  Myung-ho.


There are references made throughout to Mrs. Park's son,the deformed boy who was said to be kept locked up in the basement of the house. As the boy grew older, he took to wearing a bunny mask to hide his features. That didn't stop local kids from peering in through the basement window and making fun of him. Nobody seems to be sure what ever happened to Mrs. Park's son. He's missing, presumed dead... But then again, he could still be alive.

Bloody Reunion isn't as much of a straightforward slasher as Bloody Beach, but the story of the deformed boy is slasher perfection.

I agree. And the thing with this movie is that it heavily relies on the psychological aspect of the story. It's deeper, and much more emotional than what you'd expect from a generic slasher.

After nightfall, the attendees of this unhappy reunion start getting murdered in very painful, prolonged, brutal ways by a killer wearing a bunny mask. One man is tied up and forced to swallow razor blades. The killer strings another up and allows ants to crawl over him before bashing him out of his misery with a baseball bat.


This is what I meant by it not being a straightforward slasher. This killer doesn't just cut a person up and be done with it like your typical slasher. This film was made at the height of torture scenes being en vogue in horror movies, so this bunny-masked murderer is out to make people suffer. I have to say, I much prefer simple hacking and slashing over these more elaborate kills.

I'm not usually into the torture angle myself, but I do think that the kills are on par with the story as a whole. The killer has suffered a tremendous trauma and gone through so much pain over the years. Those wounds never healed, and this is their way of truly getting revenge.

There's more going on within this story than just people getting picked off one-by-one. As the killer whittles down their numbers, the characters also start violently turning against each other. More than one of them attempts to remove Mrs. Park from the world. And nothing is as it seems.


Director Dae-wung Lim and screenwriter Se-yeol Park put together a very intriguing story for Bloody Reunion, it takes twists and turns in unexpected directions. The situation among the characters is very layered - there's a lot of real, strong emotional drama going on at Mrs. Park's place. 

Bloody Reunion is a great psychological thriller/slasher with some amazing writing, directing and acting. The main twist is something that couldn't be guessed, and it adds up to how unique the movie is.

Even when there's not overt violence occurring, the atmosphere of the film is heavy and oppressive, the tone unnerving. Everyone on the screen appears to be a total basket case, and the dark cinematography by Yun-su Kim contributes to the unsettling feeling. 

That feeling is one of my favorite things about Bloody Reunion. Even the location contributes to that. It's by the ocean, yet it still manages to look grey and somber somehow.

Bloody Reunion is a very uncomfortable movie to watch, but a great little psychological horror tale told in a very unique and interesting way. It was not at all what I thought it would be when I started watching it. It wasn't even what I thought it was when I was an hour into watching it. What it is for sure is a horror movie that deserves more recognition than it has gotten.

There's no way you can watch this movie and not be surprised. Along with Bloody Beach, it's another example of how great Asian horror can be, without being a ghost story. Bloody Reunion is one of my favorites, and there are scenes and elements that bring classics like Psycho and Friday the 13th to mind, so it's a shame it's stuck in the underrated category. It's a great movie that I highly recommend.

I have been resistant to Asian horror in general, but the movies Priscilla has shown me have proven that there are Asian horror movies out there that appeal to me much more than the typical "long-haired ghost" flicks. Bloody Beach and Bloody Reunion are examples of films that are more to my taste, and I recommend checking them both out. Thanks for the movies, Pri!

2 comments:

  1. I don't recall ever enjoying Bloody Beach that much but Bloody Reunion? Yes, yes Bloody Reunion! The sheer brutality of it all is what made it one of my top 101 slashers!

    Now that you had a taste of Asian slashers, I may recommend the following for a test run: Paradise Villa (one part slasher, one part crime thriller, all in one apartment complex), Death Bell (There's two of them but I recommend the first movie highly over the more cliched sequel) and Bedevilled. (A depressing drama potboiler that goes satisfyingly bloody!)

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    1. Thank you very much for the recommendations! Pri and I will definitely be looking for those movies.

      - Cody

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