There’s a lot you can do with a horror film spoof, especially with all the Asian horror films flooding the market, with their cookie cutter formulas, derivative plotlines, and obsession with ghosts with long dark hair that likes to appear in bathroom mirrors. (I believe it’s some kind of Asian Movie Law that all ghosts with long dark hair must appear in the bathroom mirror at least once.) “Sisily 2km” decided to spoof not just the horror genre, but the gangster comedy as well. Or actually, it’s a gangster comedy with doses of the supernatural, since it’s not even until with just 30 minutes left that the film even bothers to address that whole long hair ghost thing that keeps cropping up occasionally throughout the film.
“Sisily 2km” stars Chang Jung Lim (last seen playing a mentally questionable college student in “Sex is Zero”) as Yang Yi, a mafia underboss tasked with locating Seok-tae (Oh-jung Kwon), a fellow gangster who ran off with the spoils of the gang’s latest heist. Seok-tae finds himself in the country, where he stumbles across villagers farming on a wide-open land and living together in a house. Actually, the “villagers” are just six people — two couples and two single men — with very shady pasts. How they came to be at Sisily, basically a small patch of land, is a mystery in and of itself.
In his first night at Sisily, Seok-tae meets an unfortunate accident, gets himself killed, and once the villagers discover that the gangster has diamonds hidden in his nostrils (it’s a long story), they decide to keep it for themselves. The villagers think they’ve gotten away with it, too; that is, until Yang Yi and his men shows up. The villagers deny having known Seok-tae, but Yang Yi refuses to leave, and sets about torturing the villagers for information. But there’s a catch: it turns out Seok-tae, who had been buried alive in a wall, isn’t dead after all. After multiple attempts to kill him, the villagers decide to bury him in the ground, only to have an act of God finally kill off the luckless gangster for good.
And oh yeah, there’s a ghost running around the premise, but she doesn’t really do anything until, as mentioned, with just 30 minutes left to go. Before the ghost (Yi Shin, a veteran of two ghost movies, “Whispering Corridors” and the recent “The Ghost” aka “Dead Friend”) finally bothers to show up for longer than a second, “Sisily 2km” plays out as a gangster comedy, with all the usual conventions you’ll find in the genre. To wit: Yang Yi’s men are bumbling idiots, he physically abuses them, and in general there are a lot of physical punishment dealt out to all involved.
As a comedy, “Sisily 2km” works well enough so that the movie is never boring. That is, unless you’re a demanding viewer, then you’ll find the film’s slapstick and general Tomfoolery to be unoriginal because, well, they are. But for the undemanding viewer, there are enough gags, funny bits, and good performances (especially by lead Chang Jung Lim, who excels at looking exasperated with his men’s bumbling tendencies) to go around. If you happen to dislike South Korean gangster comedies, the first hour will seem endlessly tiresome, because there’s really nothing else going on. The script itself seems most at home during the first hour, and less so when the ghost subplot finally shows up.
Speaking of which, “Sisily 2km” really doesn’t spoof Asian horror films than it sort of pays homage to them. Yi Shin’s ghost turns out to not be all that scary; or, as Yang Yi confesses, she’s rather pretty, except for those freaky eyes of hers, especially when she tilts them in a certain angle. The last 30 minutes finds Yang Yi down and out and searching for sanctuary at an abandoned orphanage where the ghost resides. He befriends her by refusing to leave the premises despite her insistence, since what’s waiting for him outside is certain death. And, well, at least the ghost is pretty — except for the eyes, of course.
I have to admit, “Sisily 2km” worked better than I thought it would. The premise sounds ludicrous, and the way the filmmakers sprinkled the supernatural occurrences throughout the film really seems as if they didn’t want to, but someone was forcing them to do it. In fact, the script really seems like two separate movies — a ghost parody and a gangster comedy — that somehow got merged. It doesn’t really work as a single movie, as the film is not very scary at all, which translates into a lackluster second half. Still, “Sisily 2km” is funny if you like the gangster genre, but will not hold any incentives for anyone not humored by Korean gangster comedies. “Scary Movie” this ain’t.
Of course the parts of “Sisily 2km” that works wouldn’t have worked so well without Chang Jung Lim, who is really an affable chap, even when he’s beating the villagers over the head with shovels and trying to bury them alive. It also helps that the villagers are not very sympathetic, as they not only stole Seok-tae’s diamonds after involuntarily causing his first death, but also later buries him in a fake wall when they realize he’s still alive. Then, when Seok-tae keeps coming back to life, they keep trying to murder him over and over. And since the villagers aren’t boy scouts by any stretch of the imagination, the audience will find itself rooting for the violent gangsters. It may sound wrong, but the plotting of the movie really does favor this particular response.
Like most Korean films you’ll come across nowadays, “Sisily 2km” is done by a team of first-timers. The director and writers are making their maiden voyage, which may account for some of “Sisily 2km’s” sometimes languid pace. Once Yang Yi arrives at the village, nothing really happens for the next 30 minutes except scenes of the gangsters beating the villagers and the villagers plotting to keep their stolen diamonds at all costs. And of course the ghost appears sporadically, doing one of those clich’d “now you see her, now you don’t” bits. Her brief and inconsequential appearances in the film’s first 70 minutes were obviously tacked on for the purpose of reminding us that the filmmakers plan on springing a ghost spoof later in the second half.
“Sisily 2km” is worth traveling to if you like Korean gangster comedies along the lines of “My Wife is a Gangster” or “My Boss, My Hero”. There is some toilet humor, but for the most part the film seems above lowbrow comedy. (Although this is highly subjective, so you be the judge.) And while the gangster part plays as mostly straightforward, the movie does indulges in some “Scream”-esque self-irreverent humor when the ghost finally impacts the movie. It’s nothing to roll in the aisles over, of course, but there are some good chuckles to be found, and the film is consistently entertaining enough to be recommended.
Jeong-won Shin (director) / In-ho Hwang, Chang-shi Lee (screenplay)
CAST: Chang Jung Lim …. Yang Yi
Oh-jung Kwon …. Seok-tae
Yi Shin …. Ghost
Eun-kyeong Lim …. Song Yi