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Given that original Korean horror “Death Bell” was somewhat of a sleeper box office hit back in 2008, a sequel was always going to be inevitable, and so it shouldn’t come as too much surprise that “Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp” now arrives, offering up the same mix of teen slasher and ghost thrills. With the first film having been of higher quality than most of its peers, there was a certain expectation for director Yoo Seon Dong’s (“Quiz King”) follow up, not only in serving up the scares, but perhaps more importantly in presenting another collection of good looking young victims.
It certainly manages this, with a cast headlined by teen idol Park Ji Yeon from T-ara (“God of Study”) and up and coming actor Yoon Si Yoon (“Baker King”), with support from Chang Wook (“Smile Again”), Park Eun Bin (“The Iron Empress”), Son Ho Jun (also in the first “Death Bell”), Choi Ah Jin (“A Light Sleep”), Yoon Seung Ah (“Playful Kiss”), and Nam Bo Ra (“I Saw the Devil”) and with television actress Hwang Jung Eum and the ever dependable Kim Su Ro (“My School ET”, “Vampire Cop Ricky”) rounding things out as the adults.
Park Ji Yeon stars as troubled high school student Se Hee, whose sister Tae Yeon (Yoon Seung Ah) committed suicide two years back under suspicious circumstances, her then boyfriend being implicated. She and the other 30 top students are enrolled in a summer study camp, only to find themselves trapped in the building on the first night, the doors locked and their every move being watched by video cameras. Soon enough one of the girls is found horribly murdered, and a mysterious tormentor informs them that they will face a series of tests and challenges in order to survive.
Like the first film, “Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp” can hardly accused of originality, with an entirely predictable plot that runs through its whodunit mystery with an amusing lack of irony. The red herrings and manipulations come thick and fast, with the same basic ‘where were you when student X was killed?’ question being thrown around constantly. Thankfully, the sequel also shows a superior execution, being well paced and fast moving, and with director Yoo milking every scene for maximum impact. Wisely, the film gets straight down to bloody business, and only teases with 20 minutes of scene setting before the unfortunate students find themselves trapped in the school and start being whittled down one by one. There’s very little in the way of distractions, and the film basically progresses as a series of kills, with the occasional surreal vision thrown in for good measure, and this does give it a cheerfully unpretentious feel, clearly aiming to simply deliver good old fashioned genre fun.
The film is very well made for its type, with good production values all round and generally slick handling from Yoo, who manages to notch up a fair amount of tension through the fact that it’s made clear early on that pretty much the entire cast is fair game. The film packs in some excellent shriek scenes, with lots of pleasingly inventive shocks and ghoulishness, including some weird and overly elaborate traps, including hilariously creative use of the clichéd evil hair, and one truly whacked-out and awesomely random scene involving death by spiked up motorbike. Whilst it’s true that the film does at times verges on the ridiculous, it’s entertainingly bloody, and wins extra points for gruesome gusto.
As such, watching the disposable cast being stalked and slaughtered makes for a short and very enjoyable slice of horror, and “Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp” is easily one of the better examples of the form of the last couple of years. There’s a great deal to be said in favour of its traditional approach, and it shows again that there is still very much a place in the industry for straight genre film making.
Seon-dong Yu (director) / Lee Gong-joo, Lee Jeong-hwa, Park Hye-min (screenplay)
CAST: Jeong-eum Hwang … Eun-Su Park
Su-ro Kim … Cha Seonsang
Hyeon-sang Kwon … JK