Cello (2005) Movie Review

Mi-ju is not having a very good life. For one, she’s no longer in love with her job teaching cello to a bunch of spoiled brats, one of whom holds a grudge against her and may be trying to run her over with a car. At home, Mi-ju’s oldest (and very strange) daughter is learning to play the cello, and doing a terrible job of it. And then there’s her amazingly uncharismatic fianc’, who just hired a housekeeper who may just be the creepiest housekeeper to ever go into business of cleaning house. Plus, I’m pretty sure that cello her daughter is playing is haunted. Such is life for the heroine of a Korean horror movie.

Of course matters aren’t helped by the inescapable fact that first-time writer/director Woo-cheol Lee’s “Cello” is simply unconcern with being even a semi credible horror movie. For example, the film’s first 30 minutes only features one appearance of a long-haired female ghost, and even then it’s a blink-and-you’ll-never-know-she-was-there moment. What’s the world coming to when you can’t even pick up a Korean horror movie and see a long-haired female ghost for more than a few seconds? Why, I remember the day when horror movies were horror movies, not faux family melodrama dressed up to resemble horror. In the spirit of ” South Park “, I call “Shenanigans” on “Cello”!

But I digress.

“Cello” follows the uninspired, uninteresting, and unintentionally humorous life of Mi-ju (Hyeon-a Seong, “The Scarlet Letter”), a cello professor who now leads a life of — well, I’m not really sure what she does now except drive her car a lot. What matters is that Mi-ju bears a scar from a car accident that killed her best friend, a tragedy that forced Mi-ju to give up her cello career. As to why — well, the film is peculiar about this, and seems strangely uninterested in telling us the origins of the scar until almost the hour mark. You’d think such an important plot point like the lead character’s best friend dying, prompting her to give up her precious cello career, and go into seclusion was something you might want to divulge to the audience, say, before an hour has passed in your 90-minute movie, but maybe it’s just me.

It’s very obvious that “Cello” has interests that don’t jive with the interests of the people who will be seeing it. The film clearly has ambition, wanting to be something more than just a “Korean horror movie”. Unfortunately, this desire to be what it isn’t, or what it’s selling itself as, translates into a poor genre film that, although it is different in most respects from the usual crop of Asian horror, is nevertheless simply not worth 90 minutes of your time to sit through. If movies were bookends, “Cello” would be gathering dust at the end of the library, perfectly satisfied to never have been used. It’s simply just…there. There is some mild perverse joy to be had towards the end as the story finally starts to move, but it’s not worth sitting through the rest of the movie for.

Fortunately “Cello” has some humor in it, albeit the unintentional kind. For instance, it’s quite amusing to watch “Cello” just to see how creepy the people around Mi-ju are. Her eldest daughter never talks, and instead just sits staring off into nothing, occasionally springing to life in order to bite her little sister in the arm. Mi-ju’s own sister seems perfectly lively at first, until her boyfriend dumps her, after which she begins seeing things and talking on an unplugged phone. And of course there’s that housekeeper, who is just really, really creepy. Compared to these weirdoes, Mi-ju is a saint. Although an unfathomably uninteresting and dull one.

As Asian horror movies go, “Cello” can’t help but rely on some of the familiar tropes of the genre, from that pesky long-haired female ghost to a plot twist at the end that’s supposed to leave the audience wowed. That is, if they weren’t expecting it. But since every Asian horror film has a last-minute twist nowadays, or a twist within a twist, (or even a twist within a twist within a twist!) it’s a given that “Cello” would have a similar gimmick. Once you know the twists are coming sooner or later, they can’t help but lose some of their potency. And predictably, the twist will doubtless leave audiences mystified and feeling cheated.

It’s easy to give Woo-cheol Lee props, as the kids say, for wanting to stretch genre norms to embrace something more than cheap spills, thrills, and kills. The problem is that in trying to achieve something unfamiliar within the genre, Lee purposely ignores those things about the genre that has people continually take chances with it in the first place. Is there any gore, at least? Nope. Blood? Yes. In fact, the blood flows quite freely in the last 15 minutes or so, but like the rest of the film, it’s all overly constrained. Most sinful of all is that there are shockingly few ghost moments in the entire movie, something that even the more dreadful of Asian horror films at least manages to fulfill.

There are two notable things about “Cello”: some nice cello music and humorous moments involving Mi-ju’s cute as a button young daughter. Alas, everything else is lacking, with the first hour feeling like an eternity, mainly because nothing happens to warrant keeping your eyes open at all (with the exception of a hanging that’s pretty neat, if a tad silly). At the hour mark, the film becomes unexpectedly sour, starting with the death of a major character that throttles the film into territory that is just excruciating to sit through.

Woo-cheol Lee (director) / Woo-cheol Lee (screenplay)
CAST: Ho-bin Jeong …. Jun-ki
Da-an Park …. Kim Tae-yeon
Hyeon-a Seong …. Hong Mi-ju


Buy Cello on DVD



About Nix

View all Posts

Editor/Writer at BeyondHollywood.com. Likes: long walks on the beach and Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic movies. Dislikes: 3D, shaky cam, and shaky cam in 3D. Got a site issue? Wanna submit Movie/TV news? Or to email me in regards to anything on the site, you can do so at nix (at) beyondhollywood.com.

Cool Stories From Zergnet

  • http://www.myspace.com/tokiohotelscreams Anita

    i think the movie cello is quite intersting it would make people terrified because this movie i thnk its more of a mystery but it can still scare the living day light out you

    • arthur and sue sampson

      If you want you can read my wife’s and my post we just wrote about the movie ”Cello”! Loved it big time

  • http://www.myspace.com/tokiohotelscreams Anita

    i think the movie cello is quite intersting it would make people terrified because this movie i thnk its more of a mystery but it can still scare the living day light out you

  • http://www.myspace.com/tokiohotelscreams Anita

    i think the movie cello is quite intersting it would make people terrified because this movie i thnk its more of a mystery but it can still scare the living day light out you

    • arthur and sue sampson

      If you want you can read my wife’s and my post we just wrote about the movie ”Cello”! Loved it big time

  • arthur and sue sampson

    My wife and i went to Rasputins records today where they sell new and used cd’s and dvd’s and lp’s! My wife picked this movie ”Cello” not knowing it was in Korean language and with english subtitles. Whats funny is my wife is 25% Korean but dosen’t speak the language. This was a fluke of nature that she thought it looked like a good movie. We just finnished watching it and we both agree this is one of the best ”thriller” tpye movie we have seen in a long time. We even both agree that we like it much more than the Grudge part 1 and 2 put together. I looked up on the internet to see if there is a part 2 being made and diden’t see anything. We hope they will make a part 2 because the ending leaves you wanting more and a part 2. We recommend this movie to people who like these kind of movies!!!

    • Seung se

      Nobody cares that your wife is 25% anything. You asian fetish pervs are sickening with your constant bragging. So you scored some sideways pussy … big fucking deal.

      • Kate

        Wow…I love it when angry, immature people like you have to make someone feel small and ridiculous because they posted something that YOU don’t like. I think the point to the 25% Asian, brainiac, is that we are talking about Asian movies.

        And maybe you’re so bitter because you can’t get any pussy, sideways or otherwise. I’m sure you have “something” tiny that you are making up for with your big mouth.

      • Kunal_Gupta01

        Seung se… first of alll your name suck..sounds like you are sucking your own dick.. if you cant respect someone then at-least don’t make fun of him/her. he is sharing his experience ..why should you bother.. go upstairs and fuck yourself.. you tiny little dick…kate is absolutely rite about you…

  • arthur and sue sampson

    My wife and i went to Rasputins records today where they sell new and used cd’s and dvd’s and lp’s! My wife picked this movie ”Cello” not knowing it was in Korean language and with english subtitles. Whats funny is my wife is 25% Korean but dosen’t speak the language. This was a fluke of nature that she thought it looked like a good movie. We just finnished watching it and we both agree this is one of the best ”thriller” tpye movie we have seen in a long time. We even both agree that we like it much more than the Grudge part 1 and 2 put together. I looked up on the internet to see if there is a part 2 being made and diden’t see anything. We hope they will make a part 2 because the ending leaves you wanting more and a part 2. We recommend this movie to people who like these kind of movies!!!

    • Seung se

      Nobody cares that your wife is 25% anything. You asian fetish pervs are sickening with your constant bragging. So you scored some sideways pussy … big fucking deal.

      • Kate

        Wow…I love it when angry, immature people like you have to make someone feel small and ridiculous because they posted something that YOU don’t like. I think the point to the 25% Asian, brainiac, is that we are talking about Asian movies.

        And maybe you’re so bitter because you can’t get any pussy, sideways or otherwise. I’m sure you have “something” tiny that you are making up for with your big mouth.

  • kurisuta

    Well I liked this movie…I actually watched a few years ago when it first came out. I think it was a good thriller, and I have watched it about 3 times…I go to asian-horror-films.com to watch all of my faves for free. Even blood the last vampire movie is there! So dont hate on asian movies! love em’ the ones i dont like are thai-except that meat chopping one. enjoy!

  • kurisuta

    Well I liked this movie…I actually watched a few years ago when it first came out. I think it was a good thriller, and I have watched it about 3 times…I go to asian-horror-films.com to watch all of my faves for free. Even blood the last vampire movie is there! So dont hate on asian movies! love em’ the ones i dont like are thai-except that meat chopping one. enjoy!

  • Shou En

    Recently saw “Cello” on the Sundance channel on Halloween night (2009). It seemed the appropriate thing to do. I liked this movie a lot since it was more a psychological-horror movie than just an exercise in gratuitous violence (though the blood flows more and more as the movie progresses) without a lot of ghosts floating around (although there are a few). I do not know who Nix is, who reviewed this movie back in 2005 (see above). He/she didn’t like the movie so much and he/she is, of course, entitled to his/her opinion, but he/she seems to have missed or misunderstood parts of the movie, which may have contributed to the poor review. First, Mi-ju’s “strange acting” daughter who doesn’t play the cello very well is autistic. Also, Mi-ju is either an instructor or an assistant to a professor of music at some unnamed music conservatory. She doesn’t just drive around aimlessly; she is obviously gainfully employed as a music teacher. A music professor is trying to get Mi-ju a promotion to a professorship. Of course, I am not going to give away the ending, but I liked the “constrained” feeling of this movie the reviewer above did not like. This movie probes the psychological horror developed by Mi-ju’s guilt-stricken mind. The prognosis for Mi-ju’s mental health is poor indeed, perhaps the worst horror in this movie.

    • Anna

      I agree with your post. The main review comes from a person who lacks imagination and even comprehension. The sister acts weirdly after the breakup because she is obviously possessed not just by mania but something else . The maid is a traumatized woman who has lost her speech to an attempted suicide. The older daughter is autistic and they even have a scene with a doctor talking about it. The husband and the youngest daughter don’t act weird at all. The events seem surreal and repetitive for a reason. The main character is driving from work to home. The reason we are not told about that scar is because that is the real twist. UNtil then, we feel that the main character is helpless and is traumatized by the unfortunate incidents. The scar is linked to her dark secret. If we know about it within 15 minutes, where is the climax?

  • Shou En

    Recently saw “Cello” on the Sundance channel on Halloween night (2009). It seemed the appropriate thing to do. I liked this movie a lot since it was more a psychological-horror movie than just an exercise in gratuitous violence (though the blood flows more and more as the movie progresses) without a lot of ghosts floating around (although there are a few). I do not know who Nix is, who reviewed this movie back in 2005 (see above). He/she didn’t like the movie so much and he/she is, of course, entitled to his/her opinion, but he/she seems to have missed or misunderstood parts of the movie, which may have contributed to the poor review. First, Mi-ju’s “strange acting” daughter who doesn’t play the cello very well is autistic. Also, Mi-ju is either an instructor or an assistant to a professor of music at some unnamed music conservatory. She doesn’t just drive around aimlessly; she is obviously gainfully employed as a music teacher. A music professor is trying to get Mi-ju a promotion to a professorship. Of course, I am not going to give away the ending, but I liked the “constrained” feeling of this movie the reviewer above did not like. This movie probes the psychological horror developed by Mi-ju’s guilt-stricken mind. The prognosis for Mi-ju’s mental health is poor indeed, perhaps the worst horror in this movie.

  • Chatty Kathy

    I also saw Cello last year (2009) on Halloween night. I thoroughly enjoyed it and had hoped that Sundance would air it again this year (apparently no). That said I would love to see it and the other movie Sundance aired that same night, the Japanese film “Premonition”, again.

    I found Nix’s review confusing and it was not my own experience with the film. I would encourage people to watch it and form their own opinion. And I have to say I found nothing even remotely amusing about it.