Tuesday, July 24, 2007

R-Point (Korea 2004)

R-Point, a Korean supernatural/horror film, gets the distinct honor of being the first horror film I've seen taking place during a war. What does that mean for the quality of the movie? Nothing at all, but it sure did get my attention. Unfortunately, nothing really happens in the movie until the very end resulting in a buzz-kill of my initial excitment. Strictly for those with a long attention-span.

A group of soldiers in 1972 Vietnam, led by Lieutenant Choi (Woo-seong Kam), is searching for a group of missing soldiers (they've been missing for 6 months to be exact). They make camp in a deserted, worn-down building that served as a retreat for French soldiers. Corporal Joh (Byeong-cheol Kim) gets separated from his unit after Lieutenant Choi separates the group into two units; one to investigate the building, and the other to investigate the R-point area, considered sacred land by the Vietnamese. As a side note, I'm assuming the R stands for "restricted", but it's never really clarified so call it what you will. As I was saying, Corporal Joh sees whom he believes to be one of his comrades, but what he's really seeing is the ghosts of dead soldiers...the soldiers Choi and his men were sent there to find!

Choi and his men are surprised to see a group of American soldiers making their way towards the retreat. The Americans explain that the French soldiers once occupying the retreat were all killed, and that they're betting Choi and his men won't last too long themselves. After dropping off some supplies in the retreat, the Americans disappear in the night, leaving Choi and his men slightly unsettled. The soliders know that something isn't right in the area, but they don't know what to make of all the suspicious activity. Are ghosts real? If so, these guys aren't ready to believe it just yet. However, Choi begins seeing a mysterious woman wearing all white in various places, as if beckoning him to follow her. It seems that everyone is having their eyes play tricks on them, and they're all becoming increasingly paranoid.

One of the soldiers in the group, Private Jung goes missing from the rest of the unit, and the group reports it to Lieutenant Choi. When Lieutenant Choi checks in Captain Park to let him know about the young Privates disappearance, the Captain calls Choi crazy, informing him that Jung is one of the men they were sent to look for in the first place! Out on patrol in the rain, two of Choi's men are becoming increasingly paranoid about the mysterious activity surrounding R-Point. The fact that they can't remember Private Jung being with them from the very beginning has them even more on edge. One of the men leaves the trench to do his "business", leaving the other, more paranoid of the two, alone. However, after a momentary lapse of being lost in thought, he's no longer alone. The problem is, he doesn't know who the soldier is that just joined him! The young soldier runs off into the night and is eventually cornered into an area where his men had earlier set a booby-trap to defend against the enemy. As you can imagine, the "ghost" backs the young soldier into the trap. This is only the beginning of the soldiers' problems as the ghosts seem to be picking the soldiers off one-by-one. The ghosts appear to be possessing the men, essentially turning them into mindless killing machines.

Now that things have gone from a little scary, to just plain bad, Choi and his soldiers eventually decide that it would be best to just call the search mission off and get the hell out of R-Point. Of course, the more aware they are of the supernatural presence, the more difficult things are going to get for them. They finally make contact with their base, and a helicopter evacuation is scheduled for the next day, but will Choi and his men live through the night?

I know that you're probably thinking the storyline of R-Point sounds pretty darn good, and you would be right to say that. However, the problem, as usual, rests with the execution of it all. Finishing up at just around one hour and fifty minutes, it's a shame to say that nothing, at least nothing of significant importance, happens until the very end of the film. Sure, you have a few "spooky" run-ins with the ghosts from time-to-time, but most of the film is spent building up to what you hope will be an exciting and gratifying climax, which really is the only time the whole movie comes together and shines. Sadly, throughout the rest of the movie, the decision is made to create a lot of really tense built-up moments, but again...nothing cool comes from it. They really just seem to want to tease the viewer. It's does manage to earn some "cool" points by incorporating war with horror, but it never feels like these soldiers are in the middle of a war.
Definitely more of a psychological horror movie than a gore-fest, R-Point manages to grab your attention with the initial premise, but ultimately lets you down with it's pacing and execution. (Lee)

Buy R-Point on DVD or VCD at YESASIA!

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