Saturday, April 9, 2011

Haunters (Korea 2010)

Oh man. You know those times when you read about a movie and start developing expectations for it and then the cold, hard hand of reality smacks those expectations to the dirt? Well I really set myself up for disappointment with Haunters (초능력자) aka Psychic (which is ridiculous because his abilities aren't even psychic abilities). However, if I were psychic, I could've seen beforehand what a pile of garbage I'd soon be watching. Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

1991. Cho-in (Yang Kyeong-mo), a boy with a wooden leg and gauze over his eyes, is being dragged through the rain by his mother. His mother explains that he isn't to take the gauze off of his eyes and that he should just trust her. The boy's insanely abusive father comes home swearing and starts beating the boys mother. Fed up, the boy removes his gauze and suddenly we see the man under the boy's control and he deals with his father accordingly. This kid is anything but normal. 2010. Im Gyoo-nam (Ko Soo), is working at a junkyard with his best friends Ali (Enes Kaya) and Boba (Abu Dod), but soon finds himself out of work after he's involved in an accident which lays him up at the hospital. Looking for a new job, Gyoo-nam answers a help-wanted ad at Utopia, a pawn shop run by Jeong-sik (Byeon Hee-bong). Happy in his new position at Utopia, Gyoo-nam seems to be without a care in the world until Cho-in (Kang Dong-won), walks through the door and puts everyone in freeze-mode with his magic eyes...everyone but Gyoo-nam that is. Cho-in can't believe that he's finally run into someone invulnerable to his abilities after all these years. Seems our super-powered figure has been using his ability to rob various shops of their money. He's abnormal and not a good guy. Double whammy. Gyoo-nam tries to fight off Cho-in but during the melee, Gyoo-nam's boss Jeong-sik is killed. Gyoo-nam feels like he's let his boss down and is having a hard time forgiving himself, so with the help of his two goofy, foreign friends, he aims to hunt down Cho-in and bring him to justice.

Well, that was certainly one of the shorter synopsis' that I've written up for a movie. That's probably because almost nothing happens in Haunters. I could tell you that this movie is chock-full of spoiled potential but that would probably just depress you even more. The opening of the film, showing a bit of Cho-in's back-story, looks really good and you think you're in for a really cool, sci-fi/fantasy film with a sharp, glossy look to it. However, after the movie places us in 2010 that all goes out the window. Suddenly the movie looks incredibly low-budget, as if it were made in the 1990's. Not only does it all look different, but everything feels different as if you're watching a completely different movie. The acting is very comedic, which I'm sure was unintentional, but Haunters feels like something you'd catch on a cable network at 2:30 in the morning. We all know that Kang Dong-won is better than this (see: Secret Reunion, Jeon Woo Chi), but here it seems that he's simply dialing it in and collecting that paycheck. His character has zero depth and we really don't ever get to find out what his motivation is for being "evil". Ko Soo and his cohorts are fine enough a different movie, but here they just feel out of place and Ko Soo's heroics seem to come out of nowhere because he's never perceived as anything but bumbling beforehand. I place a lot of the blame on writer/director Kim Min-suk for Haunters being as big of a mess as it is. Everything feels so unbalanced, from the acting, to the score, down to the abysmal dialogue and inconsistent look. I have to also point out that either Cho-in is terrible at being a villain and using his abilities, or Gyoo-nam is just this insanely lucky guy that can't be brought down. The latter being a bit of a spoiler, but it never gets explained. I always keep my reviews spoiler-free but I have to go on record as saying the ending to Haunters makes zero-sense. Just another hash-mark in the tally of missteps this film goes through.

If the previous paragraph didn't give away my thoughts on Haunters, well then let me make myself even more clear; this is a terrible movie. It can be viewed as amateur at best, but even that would be generous as there are no redeeming qualities to be found here. I never bash movies just for the sake of bashing, but goodness me, I can assure you these harsh comments are not without warrant. (Lee)

Grade: F

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