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Into the Mirror - Tartan Asia Extreme UK Print E-mail
User Rating: / 2
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Written by Ed Fir   
Saturday, 12 January 2008

AKA: Geoul sokeuro
Directed by: Seong-ho Kim
Written by: Seong-ho Kim
Produced by: Eun-young Kim
Cinematography by: Han-cheol Jeong
Editing by: Seon Min Kim
Cast: Ji-tae Yu, Myeong-min Kim, Hye-na Kim, Ju-bong Gi, Myoeng-su Kim, Young-jin Lee, Eun-pyo Jeong
Year: 2003
Country: South Korea
Language: Korean (English Subtitles)
Color: Color
Runtime: 113 Minutes


Video: PAL R2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, DTS Digital Surround
Discs: 2
Distributor: Tartan Video

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"Into the Mirror" isn’t going to win any prizes for originality when it comes to its basic plot.  However, it’s in the execution that it really stands out.  So, if you really can’t stand the thought of another ghost story, you might want to stay away.  However, if you want to wowed by horror aesthetics, this movie will no doubt entertain you at the very least.

There are several ways to outline the plot of the film, and I am aware that at this point I could turn people off the movie, or turn them on to it.  For entertainment purposes, let me give you both versions.  First, let’s give the positive outline:

"Into the Mirror" is a film about dualities and other worlds.  It explores the balance between what we perceive as reality, and what we see as reality.  Is the reflection in a mirror just a reflection, or does it have an existence of its own even when we stop looking?  Even in the dark, don’t mirrors still reflect?  Wu Young-Min, a young cop, first experiences the mysteries of reflections during a standoff with a criminal, to horrific effect.  After the event he is pursued, not by ghosts or demons, but by the knowledge that but for one moment, he had slipped into another place.  Taking up a job as security chief at a new department store, Young-Min robotically goes about his business, neither committed nor bothered by his life.  But then the bloody murders start, the only clue, a single hand print on a reflective surface.  How do you look for clues when a sheet of glass stands between you and the crime scene?  In his search, Young-Min will expose duality in all places, and in all of us.

Alright, now the bad take:

"Into the Mirror" is a film where a black long-haired ghost comes back to avenge her murder.  Eerie music kicks in, strange things happen, and people die.  A young cop, trying to put his life together after killing his partner, is on the trail.  In the meantime he must deal with the contempt of the investigating police force, who remembers his mistake.  Can he solve the mystery, and will he find redemption?

Hmm, either of those adequately describes what goes on in this movie, and depending on which one you go for, you’ll either like this film or not.  I sit somewhere in the middle, but then, I’ve had to think about the film a little longer than most viewers might, since I knew I was going to write about it. 

The most common complaint I see about Asian horror films these days is that people are tired of the “black long-haired ghost” storylines.  Fair enough.  Of course, just about all Asian people have black hair, so I suppose at the end people are really bitching about the ghost angle, and how it is used to bridge the gap between reality and the strangeness of the plots.  Alright, so it’s been done several (hundred) times, but if I am going to dismiss films just for this notion, then there’s going to be few Asian films to enjoy (funny how people don’t bitch about American films where murders take place and it’s some monster with no back story, isn’t it?)  Not to mention, films like "Into the Mirror" offer quite a lot aside from this.

At its heart, "Into the Mirror" is about duality.  It’s about our good and bad sides, the plush external ambiance of a new department store, and the dank dark and dangerous behind-the-scenes, good corporate managers and evil ones.  By exploring both sides, the film keeps you slightly off balance (especially as people move between one side and the next in their personalities).  By the time you reach the climatic scenes, I can assure you the question of which side of the mirror is more real will certainly lead to some head scratching.

However, say what you want about the storyline, the execution in this film is excellent.  From the opening scene we have visual splendors and camera tricks that at times are jaw dropping.  I confess, at several points in this film I paused it, scanned back, and rewatched a transition or scene.  Kim Sung-Ho (Director), offers up a feast for the eyes, and at times you’re taken aback by his tricks.  I can only wonder what hell he must have gone through trying to make a film so full of mirrors – how did he hide his crew, his cameras?  In that opening scene we see a young woman with a cell phone in one hand, and a compact in the other.  As she applies make-up to her face, she speaks into the phone, and looks into the mirror.  The camera zooms to a close up of her eye, but zooms out from the reflection in the mirror.  This is the first hint that what you’re about to see is heavily stylized and to be frank, beautiful.

To spell out every instance where reflections are used to good effect in the film would perhaps rob you on some of the impact.  Remember the shot in the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake, where the camera prowls through the back window of the van after the suicide?  Well, that type of shot is taken to a new level in this film, and it’s all over it, not an isolated event.  Actually the same shot exists, except we go through the window itself.  Oh, digital magic is truly opening up the mind of creative filmmakers!

The plot might well be familiar to most of us Asian horror fans, but for me there is enough additional stuff around it to make "Into the Mirror" worthy of a buy.  While the story lacks innovation, the cinematic expression of that idea is reaching new heights with this film.  Even when you might be yawning a bit, the screen displays bits and pieces of magic that keep you entertained.

The downside is an overlong running time, the film really didn’t need to be seven minutes short of two hours.  Things could have been tightened up to get us closer to 90 minutes I reckon.  Another downside is that the DVD used for this review, put out by Tartan Asia Extreme in R2 (the package states its coded R2, but it appears to be R0), is overly soft. 

On the plus side, Tartan is putting together a plethora of extras for their Asian films.  This is a two disc set with Director’s commentary, six behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, music videos and more.  It’s a treasure trove and a good eye into a world of cinema I know little about.  It’s really a delight to see such attention lavished on these titles – though a better transfer of the film would get more kudos.

All in all "Into the Mirror" isn’t going to change anyone's minds about the dearth of new ideas in Asian horror, or turn those jaded back on to what is being made there.  However, if the naysayer will pause a moment and consider the artistry at work, they’ll find there is more here than a simple ghost story.  This is modern day filmmaking, at times, at its most inventive and creative.  Either way I look at it, I’m glad I got to see this film, and recommend it – with reservations – to those with open minds.

SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL:

DISC 1
- Directors commentary
- Original theatrical trailer

DISC 2
- The Film In Storyboards
- 6 Behind the Scenes Documentaries:
- Thoughts From The Director
- The Story
- Two SelvesReality and Reflection
- The World In The Mirror
- Making The Film
- Deleted Scene
- Music Video
- TV Spot

RATING:
VIDEO: 4:3 Full Frame 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaThe image “http://severed-cinema.com/images/half-star.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.No Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema
AUDIO: Dolby Dolby Digital 5.1 – Korean
DTS Digital - Korean
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