It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s the case, then the makers of “The Record” must adore “I 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 candy.
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.
Gi-hun Kim, Jong-seok Kim (director)
CAST: Seong-min Kang …. Hyung-joon
Eun-hye Park …. Hee-jung