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RUNNING TIME: 103 Minutes
Commentary by Director and Cinematographer
Making of Featurette
A Look at Visual Effects
Original Theatrical Trailer
It‘s practically every Asian horror movie you‘ve ever seen meets The Devil Wears Prada.
Hye-su Kim, Seong-su Kim, Yeon-ah Park, Su-hee Go, Eol Lee
Women go completely batshit insane over a pair of shoes. Other, more interesting stuff happens too, but it all takes a back seat to shoes.
Nobody rocked a pair of pumps like Hollow Man
A young Korean girl sits in an otherwise empty subway platform waiting for her friend. While waiting (rather impatiently), she decides to go for a little stroll and comes across a pair of pink shoes just lying on the floor. As soon as she picks them up, the friend shows up out of nowhere and proceeds to beat the hell out of her in an effort to take the shoes away. “I saw them first!” she shouts as she shoves her friend to the ground and power-walks away, overcome with a sense of pride and accomplishment for having taken the top spot in Middleweight Korean Schoolgirl Shoving – until some malevolent force rips her legs off at the knees and then retreats back into the shoes, like some lower-leg-hating genie fashionista.
This is the pre-title scene of Yong-gyun Kim’s The Red Shoes and, as all “epilogue” scenes should do, it sets the tone and the theme for the entire film. What theme would that be? That women will murder the shit out of each other over shoes. Okay, so that wasn’t the “intention,” but we’ll get into that later.
Post-title, we’re introduced to Sun-jae (Hye-su Kim), a young wife, optician and mother whose marriage is on the rocks. After catching her husband in the arms (and vagina) of another woman, she takes her young daughter and tries to start life anew by opening her own Optical Center. The girl, who very plainly favors her father, has issues with this and the fallout between mother and daughter is very real and very emotional, even disturbing at times. If the movie had stayed on this track and been played as a straight drama it would have been spectacular, as the performances from everyone involved were great and it really would have transcended above the cookie-cutter “divorce flick.”
Little Tae-su had a lot of auditions that day. The Ring, The Grudge, The Eye – here she is rehearsing for all of them.
Instead, Sun-jae just happens to find the titular shoes on the subway train (it makes sense that they’re so enamored with public transportation – they are shoes after all. *rimshot*) and brings them home, forcing even more of a rift between Sun-jae and her young daughter. Remember the way the two best friends beat the hell out of each other just to be able to put them on? Well the same thing happens here. A grown woman and her grade-school daughter get into shouting matches and even get disturbingly physical, each in an effort to claim the shoes as her own. Insert mom’s best friend, who comes over to check on the two of them. Once she discovers the shoes, she threatens and eventually harms the little girl to get them for herself. The best friend, while wearing them, ends up murdered by the same unseen force and has her legs lopped off as well. So, here we are at the peak of the story. We’ve got a mother and a daughter already at odds over the familial difficulties, now literally fighting over shoes that have murdered two people. Add a creepy interior designer/love interest for mom who has secrets of his own and a daughter’s insistence that she keeps seeing her father while the mom is equally as insistent that she didn’t and you have somewhat of a frustrating, convoluted movie with so many strands that the third act doesn’t know what to do with it all.
But it tries. There’s a very thin backstory on the shoes’ history, a ridiculous piece of narrative-bridging exposition, a nice little reveal that ties up the whole divorce subplot and a dumbass twist ending that’ll have you remembering your distaste for a certain film from a fellow named Alexandre Aja*.
Their hearts were in the right place, but it’s impossible to happy in a playground built by Cenobites.
And then there’s the subtext. We’re treated to a film in which EVERY SINGLE FEMALE CHARACTER goes completely insane and driven to violence (even against children) to own a pair of shoes. Shoes. A pair of shoes. A woman throws her daughter to the ground over a pair of shoes. Another woman violently shakes that same child for a pair of shoes. A daughter attempts to beat the hell out of her mother over a pair of shoes. Two best friends almost kill each other on the third rail of a subway platform – over a pair of shoes. The director says it’s a statement on the dangers of coveting, it could also be seen as an indictment of consumerism and stunted values. In actuality it’s completely sexist, misogynistic and fascinating. Especially to hear the female cast sing the praises of the script, the story and the director.
And a quick nitpick – the only RED shoes on display are on the cover art. The shoes in the film? Pink.
Note: This is supposedly based on Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tale of the same name. I’m not familiar with it, but from what little I’ve read, it’s not the most faitful adaptation.
Well, speaking of the artwork – there’s a bloody red pump affixed to a dirty, bloated, disembodied leg. It’s all grungy and rough and minimalist, with the title and stupid tagline (“one size kills all” – geezus) floating in the middle. I like the hell out of it. And it’s actually pretty indicative of what’s inside, save for the actual RED shoes. Well, and the minimalism. This movie could have used a bit of that.
Hey – it’s a scary lookin’ hobo!
In the features, there’s a commentary (in Korean) and a bunch of featurettes (also in Korean, but subtitled). The visual effects one was pretty informative and technical, the rest were fluff.
At the end of the day it’s a decent little rental if you just wanna kill some time with a sufficiently creepy little thriller, or have a foot fetish, or a girl fight fetish, or are a subway enthusiast. But don’t expect much more out of it than that.
* – For the record, I dug the shit out of that movie up until that stupid twist. Aja’s original cut of the ending should have never been excised from the final film as it actually used the twist to serve the story, as opposed to raping it.
OVERALL 6.0 out of 10