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A penny pincher who looks like a porn star, a man whose wife may be cheating on him with a fund manager, a woman hawking a water purifier, a nosy old man, a demure piano teacher, and two teenagers filming the going-ons of their apartment building’s tenants to sell on the black market. All this, plus a young online gamer who has come to this particular building looking for a fellow gamer named “Viagra”. As the Korea-Japan soccer match plays in the background, the killings start in the foreground.
Like most South Korean films that indulge in serial killings, “Paradise Villa” is very graphic. The blood spurts freely after knife stabbings and accidental killers find that bodyparts take a long time to hack loose with just a kitchen knife. Anyone looking for a grounded Slasher film (No possessed scarecrows here!), will find “Paradise Villa” to their liking. The story is rather convoluted at first glance, but proves to be rather simple.
Aside from the young gamer in search of his online opponent, who he blames for stealing his “weapons”, there’s the matter of the fund manager and his affair with the piano teacher. During a passionate tryst, the lovers are interrupted by a neighbor who believes the piano teacher is his wife. This situation ends up badly for the neighbor, who meets his death at the end of a barbell.
As the young gamer goes about his business seeking Viagra and racking up an impressive bodycount in the process, the fund manager and piano teacher struggles to get rid of the neighbor’s body. Meanwhile, the other neighbors are either too busy watching the Korea-Japan soccer match or caught up in their own personal dysfunctions to notice the chaos going on outside their doors. It’s all directed with an eye toward irony by Chong-won Park, who surprisingly once helmed the social film “Our Twisted Hero”.
“Villa” is no “Hero”, as the two films are diametrically opposed in almost every way. “Paradise Villa” can be best compared to the American “May”; both are grounded, have plenty of grit, and there is a sense of casualness to their bloody madness. Although unlike “May”, this South Korean Slasher starts the party early, with a bloody killing in a bathroom. That starts a chain reaction, with the online gamer (Han-jun Jo) coming into contact with various tenants on his neverending quest to find the elusive Viagra.
For the average moviegoer I don’t think “Paradise Villa” will, as they say, “play”. It’s an entertaining and grisly film, with a large dose of blood, sex, and violence. That is, if those are things you look for in a movie. The film’s nonchalant attitude is very South Korean, but don’t expect ghosts with long dark hair or characters staring off into space for long stretches in the service of mood. Thank goodness the Koreans still know how to make horror films that isn’t just another direct copy of “Ringu”.
For Slasher fans, “Paradise Villa” will be a terrific entry. The film plays out as mostly straightforward, with none of those Third Act twists that comes out of left field that filmmakers nowadays are so enamored with. But once again, I would only recommend “Paradise Villa” for Slasher fans. Everyone else will not enjoy its well-done violence, or appreciate the matter-of-fact way it goes about business. The characters in the building threatens to become caricatures from time to time, but more often than not they come across like real (albeit dysfunctional) people.
This is one of those movies only fans that have become jaded with American Slashers can truly enjoy. If you’ve ever wondered why American Slashers can’t take the time to approach their films from a different vantage point besides what’s been done ad nauseaum, “Paradise Villa” is what you’ve been waiting for.
Chong-won Park (director)
CAST: Han-jun Jo …. 20 years old
You-Mi Ha …. Piano Teacher
Hak-cheol Kim …. Host
Dong-hun Shin …. Long legs