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STUDIO: Tartan Video
MSRP: $24.99
RUNNING TIME: 112 Minutes
• Making of Sorum
• Interviews with Director and Cast
• Original Theatrical Materials

• Photo Gallery
• Trailers for other Tartan releases

The Pitch

“What do you mean there are no stringy-haired zombie women or haunted electronic devices? This is a Japanese horror movie, right? Korean drama? Whatever, we’re marketing it as another incarnation of Ju-on anyway. Originality is not an option.”

The Humans

Jang Jin-Young, Kim Myung-Min, Gi Ju-Bong, Park Young-Hoon.

The Nutshell

Creepy cab driver Sun-Yeong rents an apartment in a rundown building. The room he rents has a troubled past, his older neighbor informs him. The most recent tenant burned to death in an apparent suicide. Three decades earlier, a man killed his wife and set fire to the apartment, leaving his infant son to die in the room. The old neighbor is writing a book about the building’s violent history. Sun-Yeong soon takes an interest in another neighbor, Yong-Hyun, who struggles through life with an abusive husband. When Yong-Hyun’s husband ends up dead after a vicious fight, Sun-Yeong helps get rid of the body. The speed with which he helps Yong-Hyun resolve the situation speaks to Sun-Yeong’s own violent past. As time passes, Sun-Yeong begins to realize that each person on the floor is part of a larger mystery, and that he may have been drawn to the building by supernatural forces.

"The main course was delicious. Come here dessert!"

The Lowdown

Immediately after watching Sorum, I felt that the movie is at least 20 minutes too long. The setup in the first act is not paced well, even though it is abundantly clear once the two main characters are introduced that they will have a relationship at some point and that it is not going to end happily (if you don’t want this plot point spoiled for you, don’t look at the back of the DVD case). Director Jong-Chan Yoon loves to let his camera dwell on the squalid scenery of the apartment building and it surroundings. While that isn’t a major infraction in any film fan’s rule book, it would have been better to propel the complex story forward a little quicker, since the story doesn’t officially begin until the main characters get together.

My second thought after finishing the movie was that it isn’t the horror movie the packaging seems to suggest. Yeah, there’s mention of a curse on the building, some flickering lights here and there and a couple of other occurrences, but otherwise those things could be ignored in favor of the more-than-adequate character drama taking place. See, the spectres at work here are more psychological (in their heads) than corporeal (in your face). When all of the movie’s numerous secrets are revealed (and if you identify and arrange them all quickly after viewing, you are better than me) the ghostly happenings add another layer of meaning to the works. After a little contemplation, that second layer supplements your enjoyment. It’s like a cheeseburger with one or two cheeses. You aren’t going to complain about only one kind of cheese, but when you suddenly taste a second cheese in your burger, you give a little groan of satisfaction. To complicate the cheeseburger analogy beyond all reason, I will submit that the drama is the second, tastier cheese in this burger. You bite in expecting horror cheese, but wow, there’s lots more sharp, non-horror cheese instead! Good burger!

"I can’t believe that Arnold Drummond dropped a ketchup balloon on me!"

All cheeses aside, the film is extremely tense and violent in parts. Some of the rough stuff appears in very quick (and often confounding) flashbacks, but the female lead Kim Myung-Min takes a couple of beatings that are difficult to watch, even for the seasoned beating-watcher. Myung-Min also gives the strongest performance. Her character is the only person we are allowed to feel empathy for. Jang Jin-Young’s cab driver is the focus of the story, but he’s not a nice guy. He’s equal parts Travis Bickle and any number of other filmic human icebergs. He actually seems to care more for his hamster than the people around him.

The more I think about Sorum, the more I appreciate it. Some liberal editing would have solidified its impact, but overall you will have a hard time putting the better moments of this film out of your mind.

Good sex is rarely funny.

The Package

Sorum is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtracks. The video quality is moderately washed-out and grainy, a distraction I could never get past. The white subtitles are often hard to see when set against a light background also. The surround sound is much better, with plenty of good spatial effects to pump up the semi-atmospheric story. The main special feature consists of a set of behind-the-scenes segments from the planning and filming of Sorum and short interviews with the director and main actors. Included is a lengthy F/X video showing the creation of head and body casts of the Myung-Min. Those who have seen this technique before are used to seeing some burly rubber fiends pouring the latex over their victims. This time, three or four little Korean ladies do the deed. The footage illustrates just how long a viable set of casts take to complete. I always wondered how suffocating it is to have your head molded. Strangely, I’m not confident that fake parts of Myung-Min are put to use in the film. Chalk that up to the magic of movies, I guess. You also get a photo gallery, three trailers for this film and four for other Tartan releases.

7.0 out of 10

Jake Gyllenhaal sees the wind, prepares to outrun the wind.