Sunday, 31 May 2015


Most films are instantly recognisable, but because I tend to favour imports over official UK releases (some films are never likely to see the light of day over here), the film I'm about to endure isn't always obvious to me. 

Take Arang for example. The DVD case is written in Korean, as is the blurb on the back of the box. There are no screenshots from the movie either, so all I really knew was I had watched the movie at some point over the past 15 years, and the film sat somewhere between Arahan and Armour of God on the DVD shelf. Talk about going in partially-sighted. 

According to legend, Arang was the daughter of a magistrate (busa) of Miryang during the Joseon Dynasty. Her nanny conspired to have the servant Baekga rape her; however, she resisted and Baekga stabbed her to death. Her father, thinking she had eloped with a stranger, resigned his position in shame. 

Thereafter, whenever a new magistrate was appointed Arang's corpse would appear; soon no-one would take the position. At last a bold man named Yi Sang-sa was appointed to the post, and he promised Arang's ghost that he would avenge her. The plot of the movie, set in modern day South Korea, plays on these tragic events.

Though there are horror aspects at play, Arang works best as a detective drama. Early attempts at scares fall flat, with familiarity rearing its ugly head at every turn. Arang is a welcome thriller in which our two protagonists debunk traditional horror lore only to fall prey to it all the same. Song Yoon Ah and Hyun Gi are great value for money, more than making up for the ham-fisted jump-tactics littered throughout the first act. 

Because the detective drama works so efficiently, the cheap scares are mostly redundant, born from uniformity not necessity. The ending though, was a pleasant surprise. Twist endings don't always work out but Arang's is quietly affecting. Definitely worth a look. 

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