Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Red Shoes (2005)

The Red Shoes is a South Korean horror film based on the fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen. A tale of possession, ghosts, greed, jealously and the descent into madness, I was impressed by this film.

Sun-jae (Hye-su Kim) finds her unloving husband cheating on her with another woman. Not only that, but the other woman is wearing a pair of heels from Sun-jae's large shoe collection. Disgusted, angry and heartbroken, Sun-jae flees with her daughter Tae-su (Yeon-ah Park) and her shoe collection to a dingy apartment. She is also having her new eye clinic remodeled, and begins a romantic relationship with the interior decorator. One day, Sun-jae finds a pair of pink pumps on the subway. She becomes obsessed and possessive of the shoes. Tae-su, her 5 year old who loves her ballet classes, also becomes fixated on the shoes, claiming them as her own. Soon, every woman who sets eyes on the shoes wants them. It becomes increasingly apparent that anyone who steals the shoes dies horribly, always with their legs cut off. Yet, the shoes always make their way back to Sun-jae and Tae-su. Sun-jae and the interior designer soon discover the grisly history behind the shoes. The originally were gifted to a beautiful ballerina, who was envied and eventually betrayed by her jealous rival. If the shoes are returned to the rightful owner, will the bloody deaths stop?

The Red Shoes (not named for the color of the shoes but for the carnage and blood they leave behind) is a great scary Korean film. Sure, there are echoes of other famous Asian flicks like Dark Water, Ringu, The Eye and even Ju-on, but this doesn't diminish the enjoyment of The Red Shoes.

It is a breathtaking film, filled with brilliant and colorful shots. The opening scene in the subway is scary, bloody and sets the pace for the rest of the film. The flashbacks to the life and murder of the prima ballerina are especially gorgeous, specifically the wedding scene between her rival and her lover. The kill/scary scenes are perfectly dingy and dark and the shots frame the horror beautifully. There are so many gorgeous and gruesome shots, I can't begin to cover them all!

My only complaint is the typical Asian ghost Sun-jae encounters in the subway. She was too typical for my tastes, and her appearance made me groan rather than jump. Some people also complain that the ending is confusing, but I had no problem understanding that Sun-jae was the double (or even reincarnation) of the ballerina's rival while Tae-su was the ballerina. Most frequent viewers of Asian horror that can comprehend these kinds of twists should have no problem figuring out the twist, though the general populace might be left scratching their heads.

A beautiful, well-paced, creepy and gruesome story, The Red Shoes definitely impressed me, especially since I wasn't expecting much. If you can put up with a little mimicry of other well-known Asian horror movies, The Red Shoes is definitely worth a watch.

Order it on Amazon!

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