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“Be my Guest” (a.k.a. “Excuse Me”) is an indie Korean outing perhaps best described as a slasher comedy, a wild and wacky slice of gory slapstick and demented family values which premiered at the 2009 Pusan Film Festival. The film was written and directed by Park Soo Young, who recently also helmed the child abuse themed murder mystery “No Doubt”, and sees him reteaming with actor Kim Byung Chun (“Paradise Murdered”) and actress Lee Hyun Jung, with a cast that also includes Kyoung Young (recently in the Korean “A Better Tomorrow” remake), Kim Kkot Bi (“Breathless”), Kang In Hyung (“Thirsty, Thirsty”), Kim Jin Soo (“Life is Cool”) and Park Yeong Seo (“Scandal Makers”).
The fun kicks off with Company president Uhm (Kim Byung Chun) taking his family and brother on a trip to their cottage in the country. Their bickering is cut short when a disgruntled former employed called Kim (Lee Kyoung Young) shows up and prevents them from leaving in the most gruesome of manners, determined to make Uhm apologise for firing him. The family refuse to go down without a fight, and a brutal battle of wits and violence ensues, further complicated by the arrival of a simple minded and understandably confused deliveryman (Park Yeong Seo).
Despite their very different themes and tones, “Be my Guest” is actually quite similar to writer director Park’s “No Doubt”, in that they are both economically plotted and fast paced high concept outings which clock in at less than an hour and a half. The two films also share a tendency for character reversals and deception, though here in a manic rather than Hitchcockian fashion. “Be my Guest” is certainly a film which romps quickly through its brief running time, with Park heaping on twists and surprises, and keeping things moving by expertly notching up the tension and escalating the situation through mishap after mishap, most of them revolving around maiming or mutilation. On this score, the film really is a full-blooded affair, getting off to a grisly start as Kim basically stops the family from leaving by hacking off or mangling their limbs, and letting the carnage build from there. Unsurprisingly, the central question for viewers is as to who will survive the day, though pretty quickly it becomes apparent that there’s a fair chance that everyone will end up dead, with Park’s tightly written script keeping things unpredictable and enjoyably chaotic right through to the end.
Although the film is packed with bloodshed, bolstered by some great old fashioned special effects work, it’s never particularly nasty or sadistic, with most of its splatter being played for visual gags rather than shock value. It’s fair to assume that Park was never aiming for realism, with most of the characters spending the film wandering around missing body parts or sporting horrific wounds, none of which seem to slow them down or even inconvenience them in the least. The game and on-form cast all undergo a ridiculous amount of punishment, though this ties in with the film’s comic aspirations, and is actually very funny, with a good few scenes of creatively ruthless slapstick. The film as a whole has a hilariously dark sense of humour, with an amusing mix of the mean spirited and wholesome family values – for all their psychotic bickering and willingness to screw each other over, still remain a unit through to the (very) bloody end, which makes the film all the more engaging and at times oddly endearing.
“Be my Guest” really is a great deal of fun, and one of the very few films to successfully balance horror, blood and guts and comedy without undermining itself or slipping into spoofery. With this and “No Doubt”, Park is quickly proving himself one of the best up and coming Korean helmers of genre fare, clearly having a great feel for his material and the all-important ability of trimming the fat and producing something which delivers the goods without fuss or pretensions.
Soo-young Park (director) / Lee Sung-Taek (screenplay)
CAST: Kim Byung-Chun