orean cinema gets into the found footage horror genre act with “Deserted House”, following an unfortunate documentary film crew who fall foul of the supernatural while investigating a haunted factory. Although a low budget affair very much in the manner of “Blair Witch Project”, “Paranormal Activity” and others, the film has a respectable pedigree in the form of director Lee Cheol Ha, previously responsible for “Love Me Not”, and writer Kim Eun Kyung, who also scripted the thoroughly enjoyable “Death Bell”. The cast are a young, fresh faced bunch, including Kim Eun Kyung (also in the excellent horror “D-Day“), Sin Kyeong Seon, Jeon In Geol and Yoon E Na.
The plot should be instantly familiar to anyone who has seen a found footage horror, revolving around a documentary film maker and her crew as they follow three members of a haunted house club planning to explore a sinister factory with a murderous past. The locals all shun the building, with the owner and his family having been murdered some years back, following the unexplained disappearance of a young woman he was having an affair with. Ignoring warnings to stay away, they soon find the tales of a vengeful long haired ghost to be only too true, and after night falls they are beset by weird noises and increasingly disturbing events.
The popularity of the zero budget, shot on video first person subgenre has been both a blessing and a curse to the horror genre, and whilst it’s great that pretty much anyone can pick up a camera and make one, the market has been flooded with substandard, identikit product. “Deserted House” certainly follows the form’s blueprint to the letter, starting off in true “Blair Witch” fashion, with stark titles announcing the missing film crew and the discovery of their tapes, followed by shots of the run down neighbourhood and interviews with oddball locals to provide a little backstory. From here, things progress pretty much exactly as expected, introducing the characters and proceeding to have them wander around before finally succumbing to mysterious evil forces.
The good news is that although “Deserted House” is wholly lacking in originality and ideas, it manages to get pretty much everything else right, ticking all the important boxes on the genre checklist. The location itself is superb (despite being a factory and not a house as suggested in the film’s English language title), and as well as being menacingly atmospheric, it comes across as being crumbling and genuinely dangerous, adding a real air of tension as the cast explore. The film as a whole is creepy and ominous, not least since the viewer knows that the characters are entirely doomed, and by laying its cards on the table from the start, it does to an extent defuse the issue of inherent predictability. Things do remain engaging throughout, helped by a short running time of just an hour and twenty minutes, showing an admirable sense of economy,
Although it’s fair to say that the first two thirds of the film are pretty slow moving, aiming for slow burn chills rather than a haunted house rollercoaster ride, this does keep things believable, not least since Lee and Kim don’t have to endlessly justify why the crew are still there and still filming instead of dropping their cameras and running for their lives. The film successfully notches things up for the last half hour or so with some great scares, building to an intense last fifteen minutes that are as effective as anything seen in the genre. These scenes are genuinely frightening and unsettling, even managing a few splashes of blood as they hurtle towards a fittingly ambiguous conclusion that keeps the viewer wondering exactly what happened.
“Deserted House” is certainly one of the better examples of the found footage genre of late, and one that delivers enough of the goods to keep fans entertained. Though admittedly nothing new, its execution is solid, the cast likeable enough, and the final act packs in plenty of jumps and thrills.
Lee Cheol-ha (director) / Kim Eun-kyeong (screenplay)
CAST: Sin Kyeong-seon