Psychic- ‘Haunters’: A Korean film review by Laura and Jade
The film ‘Psychic’ otherwise known as ‘Haunters’ is a Korean film that is written and directed by Kim Min-Suk. This film is initially labeled as being a thriller/horror film and is less scary than the trailer depicts; I find personally it is quite the opposite, it is more revolved around the idea of two supernatural guys fighting for the survival of the fittest with lots of obstacles in the way, with a ‘bad guy’ who is perhaps misjudged for actions that happened previously in his life, and a ‘good guy’ who wants to change and stop the bad guy’s actions in the only way he can.
It is also not your typical ‘superhero’ movie, there are no amazing stunts and gadgets involved; unless of course you class a mobile phone strapped to a helmet and a stun gun epic weapons, but really it’s just two guys who like to run after and try to kill each other, with of course, a lot of people being hurt (and killed) in the middle!
But there are some scenes which I do think push the boundaries this may make some viewers uncomfortable but I believe that they make the film all the more interesting as it did heighten the tension greatly. It also makes the film a lot less predictable and generic as you genuinely cannot predict what might happen next at some points in the film.
Let’s get down to the details, the film involves a bad guy ‘Cho In’ (meaning super natural in Korean), played by Kang Dong-Won who happens to have super natural psychic powers where he can control the minds of other people when they are within his field of sight. As well as there being a good guy called ‘Ko Soo’ played by Im Kyu-Nam who is resistant to Cho In’s powers, which as you would expect starts a chain of events which is one of the only things that is relevantly predictable throughout the film.
The film starts off with Cho In during his childhood and a tough one at that, he had an abusive father, a prosthetic leg, and an unstable mother who tried to kill him due to her despair because of his power. But at least he gets his revenge on his father which frankly I don’t blame him for. It later disappears from the lost little boy deserted by his mother, to welcome us to the happy Ko Soo and his two friends ‘Ali’ and ‘Boba’. Ko Soo loses his job at the scrap metal yard, and he later finds a job at a family owned pawn shop called ‘Utopia’ where he is welcomed by his new boss Jung-Sik (Byeon Hie-Bong) and the boss’ daughter Young-Sook (Jung Eun-Chae) and with this he is over the moon. Now in my opinion Utopia wasn’t the most hygienic of places, his job involved laying cockroach traps and cleaning a room filled with dusty boxes, but to him he is the happiest guy alive. I say be my guest.
Now you’ll be thinking where is the little abandoned boy now? Cho In now makes a living by using his powers to steal money in order to survive. Where exactly does he get this money? Our psychic friend likes to raid the pawn shops just like the one Ko Soo now works at, and of course whilst Ko Soo and his visiting friends are there, Cho In strolls in, uses his powers to freeze everyone in the room, manipulates the boss to get the money from the safe, and of course goes into shock when he finds that Ko Soo can’t be controlled. No surprise there, no-one wants to feel as if they have lost even the slightest bit of control. He unfortunately, ends up hanging the boss on iron bars, which gives Ko Soo the choice of either saving the boss, or chasing the culprit money stealer. But in the end Ko Soo gets electrocuted by a stun gun and the boss gets hanged.
And that is mainly how the film progresses until the end, with Ko Soo trying to chase Cho In and not succeeding very easily. Speaking of the end, it was interesting, but it seemed to come across as quite mainstream involving your bog standard ‘enemy’ being dealt with in the usual fashion. With a film like this being packed with so many pushed boundaries, it’s unfair that the bad guy has to lose out (again). Just once, give the bad guys a chance of victory! But as you would imagine, there are ups and downs in every film, with many people getting injured or killed including some you may or may not expect but that’s the beauty of suspense.
Throughout the film you will notice that there is less characterisation and information about the characters and their powers other than what their powers are, their actions, and the obvious reason of why they are doing it, but when compared to your standard American film we are sort of blindfolded. This can be a good thing, it stops nonsense, especially concerning Cho In who if characterised may be shown as a soppy person wondering why his life is perhaps so rubbish, and it lets us gain and give our own overall opinion about him, without it being done for us.
Regarding Cho In’s character, many people would just see him as being the evil grin bearing ‘freak’ who doesn’t have a heart, but as the film proceeded I myself had thoughts of him just being some-one who has gone off the wrong track and has no-one there to help, hence meaning he knows no other way of being ‘good’ and so he becomes a bad character as a way to fend for himself. This of course results in his twisted ways of anger that are highlighted in the film. On the other hand there are small snippets of him maybe being able to love something or someone; but of course I can’t tell you what they are.
I believe that Cho In’s character is used to show what can happen when you don’t have the best start in life; his power can be seen as a blessing or a curse depending on how you view what he does. I think the fact that he lost the control he had been seeking (as he was deprived this as a child) he then became psychotic. I think had he not been disturbed that he probably wouldn’t have gone on to harm anyone else. I think he only harms those who pose a threat to him (His dad and Ko soo) although other characters are killed, but this is done because he wants to stop Ko Soo.
Overall this film is definitely a strange one; it left me thinking ‘what on earth happened?’ But I would recommend it to anyone who wants to watch something different. When compared to the saying ‘from bad to worse’ this film really is this in a nut shell. It has everything from villains who are unstable and barely speak but only stare, to a poor simple man who enjoys life at a slower pace, and is always one step behind the mastermind villain. There is nice balance between the characters, and this creates a piercing atmosphere. Overall good job!
All in all, I think this film is particular amazing, I agree with Laura; it is most definitely strange but the fact that it is so complex and we are left to think about the characters more openly allows us the audience to interpret the films in various ways. I think if you just look at the film from a superficial point of view, it is clear that Cho In was a terrible human for killing people. But when I actually think about what he has been through and why he started killing, I cannot help but sympathize with him because had he been brought up better he may have used his power for good. And would have been saved from what I believe was his inevitable fate.
- Kim Soo Hyun Tours America for ′Secretly, Greatly′ (mykrworld.wordpress.com)
- South Korea’s New Film Heroes: North Korean Spies (thejakartaglobe.com)
- Korean Feature Films at PIFAN (wftrok.com)