t's been said that imitation is the sincerest form of
flattery. If that's the case, then the makers of "The Record" must
Know What You Did Last Summer". But while the South Korean film
is an obvious clone of the popular American film, it nevertheless manages to be
a fairly good one.
"The Record" introduces us to a group of high
school students raising money by making a fake snuff film, when they decide to
play a prank on a sickly classmate. But events spiral tragically out of control,
resulting in the classmate's apparent death. Trying to cover up their crime, the
students burn the body and the videotape, only to have the corpse revive and
plunge screaming off a ledge. A year later, the surviving students are stalked
by a figure in a red jumpsuit wearing a surgical mask, seeking bloody justice
and anticipating the students' every move.
Chang-hak Han's script isn't particularly imaginative, and
basically duplicates what's been done years before in American slasher films.
Genuine frights are few and far between, with the scares being predictable and
telegraphed far in advance. When the killer's identity is finally revealed, it
really comes as no surprise, especially if you've been paying attention. Instead
of being a revelation, the reveal is anticlimactic. The "twist" in the
film's final scene also comes as no shock, and is slightly perplexing as to why
it's even there except to set up a possible sequel. Han's screenplay also
manages the odd feat of making the imperiled teenagers act more hateful than the
villain. Selfish, cruel, vain, and largely uncaring, you can't help but root for
their comeuppance at the hands of the vicious killer.
The cast plays their respective roles well enough, but no
performances stand out except for Jae-hwan Ahn ("Show
Show Show"). As the students' teacher, Ahn is excellent, as well
as being the most empathetic character in the entire movie. His teacher is a
compassionate man who wants to instruct his students and better their moral
fiber. The problem is that his students are a repulsive and obnoxious lot, and
even R. Lee Emery ("Texas
Chainsaw Massacre") would be hardpressed to reach them. Ahn's character
wears a perpetual look of personal disappointment and his speech and posture are
that of a good man that's failed despite his best efforts.
But what save the film are the music and the skillful
direction by the two co-directors. Sang-yun Lee's score is a divergent mix of
techno, alternative rock, and synthesizers; they lend a hip atmosphere to the
film, and at times even makes bad scenes better. Co-directors Gin-hun and
Jong-seok Kim direct with a slick style, using some innovative camera angles and
some cutting edge editing. Combined with the fast pace -- which at times hides
the film's numerous flaws -- and some flash, "The Record" is better
than it ought to be. Essentially a triumph of style over substance, this is one
film where you should ignore the intellectual aspect and just enjoy the eye
It's pretty obvious that the script for "The
Record" is not an original work. But a stellar supporting performance by
Jae-hwan Ahn, a nifty score, and great direction save the movie from being
merely a pale imitation of better films.