Hide and Seek (숨바꼭질)
Director: Huh Jung
This film is Director Huh Jung’s directorial debut, and it’s a strong one at that! The story revolves around Sung-soo (Son Hyun-joo) and his family, who are living a pretty plush and swanky life, with only Sung-soo’s OCD tendencies spoiling the perfect family image. Upon receiving a call saying his older brother whom he lost contact with had gone missing, Sung-soo sets out to find out what’s happened to his brother. Investigating his brother’s eerie run-down and soon to be demolished apartment complex leads to the rise of a series of questions being asked about his estranged brother, whom it seems has a less than stellar reputation with his neighbours.
The further Sung-soo looks into this apartment block, the more sinister things become, especially when he discovers by each doorbell are marks, symbols etched in indicating how many people live in the apartment. Scared neighbour Joo-hee is convinced Sung-soo’s brother has been spying on them, and her young daughter talks about rumours of squatters living in peoples’ houses without permission. Things get worse when Sung-soo returns home to find similar symbols by his doorbell and all through his apartment block. Sung-soo investigates if his brother is the cause or could it be all in his mind and a case of urban paranoia? Will he be able to protect his family from the sudden malicious intent aimed at them? This film is a heck of a roller-coaster ride which had the whole auditorium gasping, screaming and some even shouting out in anticipated horror.
This film had a relatively low budget and lacked all the glitz and glamour of a blockbuster, so box office success wasn’t necessarily expected. However, we’re sure many are not surprised at how this film became so highly rated. This is Director Huh Jung’s debut film and he wanted to do something different. After taking into account the current trend of horror films with monsters and ghosts, he wanted to do something a bit more real. Hide and Seek was inspired from news and real-life cases of urban squatters, with one of the biggest cases being in Japan where a man discovered a homeless woman was secretly living with him; possibly the most terrifying yet possible nightmare of all us city dwellers.
From the very start, a tense atmosphere is created as we follow the female resident back to her large eerie industrial apartment block. It’s run-down, dark and isolated yet cluttered and claustrophobic. This is juxtaposed with Sung-soo’s environment which is pristine, clean and sterile. Sung-soo has OCD and his constant fear of any dirt and mess really helped to set the tone of the film as it’s something you can’t escape. Who knew the trickling of dirty water could be so terrifying!
The claustrophobic atmosphere of the film is continued throughout the film and is particularly felt at the run-down apartment block of the missing brother, where the shabby appearance of the building creates a creepy and eerie atmosphere. The use of locations in Hide and Seek is very clever, both apartments are true to life, adding to the idea that this could happen to anyone of us. Also, even though both apartments are so seemingly different, one run-down, the other with top high-tech security, how much safer are we really, surrounded by all these CCTV cameras? Multi-story car parks and empty stairwells just got a lot more scary!
The plot of this film is well thought out, executed and at a good pace; there’s constantly a new twist around the corner, a new mystery uncovered and another fight to panic over. Your heart never gets a rest in this film! This may be Huh Jung’s first film but he’s already become a master of suspense in our eyes. Again the location is fully utilised in these shabby infinite circle apartments structures, where the building itself almost becomes its own character, a vast and looming spectre which dominates the screen and oppresses the tenants, especially during chase scenes.
However, there is a certain predictability to this film, audiences were shouting at the screen because we all knew what was going to happen. Yet in a way this added to the film as audiences become emotionally involved with the film during our realisation of the doom that is about to happen. The end of the film and the resolution of the plot also left us slightly underwhelmed and we found some aspects a little cheesy. After a sleepless night replaying all the scary moments in our minds, the film left many questions unanswered. Overall it felt like the first half of the film was a lot more satisfying in terms of mystery and story than the latter. But during the Q&A, it was explained that many scenes were cut out, especially those concerning the relationship between Sung-soo and his estranged brother, so we’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the directors cut!
Hide and Seek is an excellent film that will no doubt keep you entertained (if you liked to be scared out of your wits). The atmosphere, photography and use of the buildings were definitely some of the best points of the film, all of which kept us enthralled. This is a new kind of horror movie, the most terrifying kind as this could actually happen.The realness of this film is what makes it so amazing and will no doubt leave a lasting impression. Hide and Seek was definitely a hit with the audience as throughout the screening there were gasps, screams and lots of shouting as we all try to warn the characters on screen.
After the film, we heard from Director Huh Jung himself. He said he was honoured to be the opening film in the Festival and that having such a prominent position in a foreign film festival was something that he was truly amazed at. Lead actor Son Hyun-joo also said a few words, expressing his excitement at being invited to London and taking part in the festivities, but please do not believe him when he says this is a family film! As we’ve learnt from this film, trust no one!
Hide and Seek was an epic adrenaline start to the London Korean Film Festival! To find out more about the films being screened this year along with how to book tickets make sure you check out our LKFF 2013 post. And many thanks to Director Huh Jung and Actor Son Hyun-joo for visiting us and answering some of our questions!