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Fantastic Fest 2011 Review: Haunters

September 27, 2011
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I’ve been wracking my brain trying to find a way to describe Kim Min-suk’s film, Haunters. I don’t think I’m alone in having words fail me in this regard, as it’s synopsis on the festival site is – while accurate – kind of lacking too. Which is to say, the movie I saw was not the movie that I thought I was going to see.

Fundamentally, Haunters is a story about a super-hero and villain cloaked in supernatural tropes rather than the bright and tight costumes generally found with classic comic-book fare – much in the vein of Unbreakable. We are first introduced to the villain, who as a young child used his ability – the power to control any person within his sight – to force his abusive father to kill himself. It’s a bad scene for the lad at home (spoiler: this is an understatement) so he opts to run away and live on his own. The hero’s introduction is considerably lighter in mood, we meet him as an adult – 33 years old, in fact – though his naivety and good-natured innocence suggest a much younger age (like say, six).  Kyu-Nam (Koo So) works in a junk yard and spends his leisure time at theme parks with his two best friends – and their bond is warm and endearing (also, a  montage of the three of them running around on rides nearly caused me to piss my little pee-pee pants). An accident causes Kyu-Nam to loose his job – in spite of his remarkably speedy recovery – and leads him to a new job as a pawn shop manager, a position which places him in the path of the antagonist (who uses his powers to rob places like this).  Kyu-Nam’s new employment defines him in a meaningful way (in his relationships with the family who owns the shop and giving him a sense of purpose), shaping and galvanizing him as the hero of this story.

To reveal more would take away from some really interesting moments in the film, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I enjoyed the action pieces – which are peppered with moments of humor and starkly disturbing imagery. It’s a strange, wonderful little film and so much more fun than what I thought it would be.

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