Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
(Korean with English subtitles)
Directed by: Min Kyu-Dong, Jung Bum-Sik, Im Dae-Woong, Hong Ji-Young, Kim Gok & Kim Sun
Written by: Im Dae-Woong, Jung Bum-Sik, Byun Hye-Joo, Kim Gok & Kim Sun
Starring: Kim Ji-Won, Yoo Yeon-Seok, Kim Hyun-Soo, No Kang-Min, Ra Mi-Ran, Choi Yoon-Young, Jin Tae-Hyun, Nam Bo-Ra, Jung Eun-Chae, Bae Soo-Bin, Kim Ji-Young, Kim Ye-Won & Jo Han-Cheol
I’m a sucker for horror anthologies. These films offer multiple chances to be scared in different ways. If you don’t like one story, the next one comes along relatively soon and might do the trick. Asia has pumped out some pretty freaky short films in previous anthologies like 4BIA and 3 EXTREMES. I was hoping that HORROR STORIES contained a couple of creepy tales. After all, there are four being told here so one of them has to be good. It turns out that HORROR STORIES is a very lame Korean horror anthology that’s tedious, badly written and only delivers one semi-decent story of the bunch.
HORROR STORIES ties its four shorts together with an iffy wraparound story about an abducted schoolgirl and a serial killer. The psychopath suffers from severe insomnia and cannot sleep unless his blood is chilled by a horror story or he tastes blood. So he offers his potential victim a choice of either telling him stories that are scary enough to make him doze off or he can eat her. Picking the seemingly easy option. The schoolgirl weaves four different tales of terror that don’t really wind up being that scary or original. In fact, this movie relies way too much on fake out jump scares and nightmare sequences. It’s not as if one or two stories overuse these, but every single story (including the wraparound) employs these at least two to three times. The repetitive scares that turn out to be dreams are especially frustrating. On to the stories themselves…
DON’T ANSWER THE DOOR: The first story gets things off to a potentially cool start. Two kids are driven home to their apartment from school. Their mother calls them and instructs them to not open the door for anybody, but a creepy delivery man makes this evening into something straight out of a nightmare. At least, that’s how the tale begins with some palpable tension being built up and even a couple of creepy moments. This is all lost when the film ventures into overly cheesy supernatural territory and then ends on a confusing, disjointed, and half-assed climax. D
ENDLESS FLIGHT: The worst story of the bunch comes second. In this segment, a serial killer is being transported on an empty flight and gets loose. As you can imagine, all sorts of bloody mayhem breaks out on the screen. This is essentially a 20 minute slasher that lacks creative kills, good suspense or smart decisions from likable characters. Instead, it almost plays out like a mini-version of TURBULENCE. Somehow, a shorter Korean version of that film winds up being worse than Ray Liotta mugging for the camera as an unintentionally hilarious villain. F
SECRET RECIPE: The third story is the best of the bunch and based on a Korean folktale. Two sisters compete for the love of a wealthy man who looks far younger than he actually is. What is the secret for his youthful appearance? What will happen to the sister that winds up marrying the rich fellow? Seeing as it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the basic gist from that all too revealing title of the story, you can see where this one is heading. It takes a while to get going and plays out like a dark fairy tale, which is appropriate given it’s origin. It’s predictable, but also quite a bit of dark fun. Even with some silly moments (including a couple of those aforementioned damned dream sequences and a really silly conclusion), I had fun with this in the same sense that I like so-so TALES FROM THE CRYPT episodes. I knew where it was heading, but was satisfied by the conclusion. C+
AMBULANCE ON THE DEATH ZONE: The fourth and final story takes things back into poor quality with this zombie apocalypse tale. The ideas behind it are cool as it’s about an ambulance that picks up a mother and her sickly daughter in a zombie-infested area. The doctors on board try to decide whether the little girl is infected as the mother’s stress reaches a boiling point. I liked the overall plot, but it’s made irritating by herky-jerky shaky camera work that actually gave me a headache. It’s too bad, because this was the second best story and had potential to be really good. D+
HORROR STORIES is a disappointing anthology that offers one decent tale, two bad stories (roughly making up half of the running time), and an all out terrible segment that plays off as a lesser version of an already lame movie. Familiar horror tropes are used over and over again, never once getting their intended reactions. It’s a pity because these stories had ideas that could have been terrifying in their own ways. Questionable writing and downright bad directing is what sinks this movie as a whole. There was one enjoyable tale of the four being told. If you do bother to rent this or happen to catch it for free somehow, just skip to SECRET RECIPE (the third story) and then turn it off. You aren’t missing much.