Wednesday, 7 August 2013


How would you feel if you shared a hospital ward with the man who killed your wife, and what would you do if he couldn’t remember doing it? Desire to Kill (aka Enemy at the Dead End) is the debut feature from writer/directors Owen Cho and Sang-Hwa Kim. Sang-Hwa calls it “an attempt to bring focus to innermost human nature in a confined space by using genres of thriller and black comedy”. Desire to Kill has since been compared to the work of Hitchcock, so at the very least, it finds itself in decent company.

After the death of his wife, Min-Ho (Chun Ho-jin) tries to kill himself over and over again. When another suicide attempt goes wrong he wakes to find himself paralysed from the neck down in a hospital bed. An unconscious man is brought into the room following emergency brain surgery and Min-Ho recognises him as the man who killed his wife. Further complications arise when Sang-Up (Yoo Hae-jin) wakes up with a bout of amnesia, and no recollection of the crime he supposedly committed. The clock is ticking, and it’s only a matter of time before Sang-Up remembers who he is. Blending a devilish concept, pitch-black humour and brilliant performances, Desire to Kill is available courtesy of Terracotta Distribution.

With limited locations, dreary visuals and bleak subject matter, Desire to Kill sounds like it could be a tough sell. It isn’t. Our two protagonists have very little going for them apart from an overwhelming urge to kill each another, but still they remain captivating throughout. Chun Ho-jin and Yoo Hae-jin bounce off each other really well, shifting from humour to despair and anger to fear whenever it’s called upon. The comedy elements are never overplayed, but the situations that arise are deeply farcical and the two leads have fun with their erratic personalities. It does get a little Looney Tunes at times, but with incapacitated leads taking turns to duke it out, you’ll likely conclude that this is what happens when cartoon characters get old.

With such a disturbing premise, it helps if you have a little light at the end of the tunnel, and that light comes in the shapely form of Nurse Ha (Seo Hyo-rim). Ha keeps the mood light with her bubbly, infectious personality. Forming a sweet natured relationship with both men, all the time oblivious to their quest for vengeance. With desperation sinking in, and neither man able to gain the upper hand, Nurse Ha proves to be the only likeable character. In fact, even the other doctors – who play next to no part in proceedings – seem to be acting suspiciously. To give more away would be a crime, but it soon becomes clear that Desire to Kill has more than one twist in its tail.

The movie plays out in a manner that befits the two leads, up until the surprisingly conventional finale at least. Reality and fiction merge to great effect, both inside Min-Ho’s head and on your TV screen, with real world events disrupted by spirited dream sequences and confusion reigning over everyone. Grisly hallucinations haunt Min-Ho throughout, and second act revelations (they’re more like suggestions) turn the film on its head, depending on which side of the room you’re sleeping of course.

The big reveal is certainly worth the wait, even if Cho and Sang-Hwa keep their cards a little too close to their chests at times. It all makes perfect sense in the end, some might even argue it makes too much sense, but comeuppance is always satisfying, and Desire to Kill has a lot more going for it than the strength of its outcome. I for one was happy with the way it came together, and the closing scene was genuinely affecting. Blending horror, comedy and drama is never easy, especially with a plot so bleak, but Desire to Kill achieves just that. In toning down the glorified excess of similar revenge fare and ramping up the human frailties at their disposal, Cho and Sang-Hwa have created a tantalisingly twisted gem.

With standout performances, intriguing plot twists and a sprinkling of black comedy, our desperate protagonists give the quest for vengeance a welcome shot in the arm. Or whatever body parts they can get their hands on. AW


No comments:

Post a Comment