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The excellently titled “Ghastly” is the latest of the 2011 Korean summer horrors to hit DVD and is another dealing with the ever popular theme of creepy possessed children. Directed by debut helmer Yang Yun Ho, the film attempts to live up to its billing by combining the usual ghostly scares with a more visceral and gory brand of thrills, with popular actress Han Eun Jung (still beloved for her roles in television series such as “Full House”, and who last appeared on the big screen in the 2008 hit “The Divine Weapon”), Park Sung Min (“Officer of the Year”) and T-ara member Hyo Min (here making her debut) all trying to avoid losing their feet.
The film gets off to a strong and shocking start, with an unfortunate young boy called Bin (Lee Hyung Suk) waking up in the middle of the night, only to find his father dead and chopped to pieces, and his mother grinning while she hacks at her own feet with a carving knife. The orphaned Bin is taken to live with his aunt Sunny (Han Eun Jung), her husband Jang Hwan (Park Sung Min), and her younger sister Yoo Rin (Hyo Min), who try their best to give him a loving home. Soon enough, Sunny is being tormented by bloody visions, and when Bin’s behaviour worsens and people start to disappear, she decides to investigate the mystery behind his parents’ bizarre deaths.
With “Ghastly” Yang Yun Ho tries his best to add spice up the usual vengeful ghost formula by throwing in gruesome death scenes, and generally succeeds. Although the film is far from original, revolving around an instantly recognisable premise and building towards an entirely predictable conclusion, it manages to pack a considerably more entertaining punch than most other similarly themed efforts. The film gets a great deal of mileage out of visions and dreams, most of which feature the sudden appearance of a ghost, and while such cheap frights are plainly manipulative, they work well to add plenty of fun supernatural action and to provide an excuse for more gore, with characters imagining their feet being hacked off and other unpleasant mutilations.
Similarly, though many genre fans are likely and quite justifiably tired of seeing supposedly sinister children menacing adults who should know better, Bin is a genuinely nasty little piece of work who in several surprisingly vicious scenes shows a disturbing taste for taking his young classmates to bloody task, including one particularly shocking sequence involving the violent misuse of a pencil.
Another plus is that “Ghastly” is surprisingly well made, with Yang showing a good grasp of the genre, and the film rattles along at a fast pace, clocking in at just 77 minutes. This makes for a lean narrative and leaves little room for needless distractions, though a subplot involving No Min Woo (My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox) as a policeman never really goes anywhere. Still, the film is a respectably tight affair, and this helps to avoid padding or melodrama, and distracts from the basic familiarity of the plot, with the central mystery being a touch weak, resolved suddenly through last act revelations and flashbacks. The cast all acquit themselves well enough, and though it’s unsurprisingly young Lee Hyung Suk who steals most of the scenes as the demented little imp, Han Eun Jung is on likeable form as ever, and Hyo Min does a decent job in a role that largely seems to have been included for eye candy and potential peril.
All in, “Ghastly” is a very decent and commendably economic entry in the Korean horror genre. Despite its lack of originality, the film effectively brings together its various elements and definitely benefits from an upped gore quotient, making it very much worth the short running time for fans.
Ko Seok-jin (director) / Kim Yoo-ra (screenplay)
CAST: Eun-jeong Han … Sunny
Hyomin … Yoo-rin