J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hide and Seek: Fatally Occupied

For the Occupy crowd and their allies in Congress, “I like it, I’ll forcibly take it” is an economic policy. In South Korea, it is the stuff of horror movies, or at least one very dark thriller. Violent and intrusive squatting has tormented the residents of a shabby tenement, but the terror is about to move on up George Jefferson-style in Huh Jung’s Hide and Seek (trailer here), which releases today on DVD from RAM Releasing, Film Movement’s relatively new genre division.

Baek Sung-soo has a lovely wife, two small children, and a mild case of germ-o-phobia. He also has an older brother Sung-chul, who has apparently gone missing. They were never very close, particularly after Baek inherited their parents’ entire estate, even though he was the adopted one. Of course, there is a good reason for that.

Visiting his brother’s dilapidated building, Baek learns the tenants have been terrified by a peeping tom, who has a knack invasive snooping. We also know from the prologue at least one murder has been committed there. Brother clearly suspects brother, as Baek Sung-chul’s backstory is revealed, but whoever that motorcycle helmet wearing freak might be, he has followed the Baek family home to their tony Seoul high-rise condo.

Granted, most of the second act business is pretty straight forward woman-and-children-in-jeopardy stuff and the big third act revelation stretches credibility to the breaking point. However, it is Huh’s attention to creepy details that really elevates Hide. Shrewdly, he never overplays Baek’s OCD, using it for character development rather than as a major plot device. He also fully establishes the two very different housing complexes as distinct, physical locations, while steadily cranking up the sense of paranoia.

Son Hyun-joo’s Baek always looks appropriately haggard, as if he were constantly in desperate need of an aspirin—even if he does just sort of plod along grimly. Although his wife Min-ji initially comes across as a sort of ice queen-trophy accessory, Jeon Mi-sun brings out the mother’s fierce protectiveness quite powerfully. Yet, perhaps the most effective performance comes from young Kim Ji-young, as little Pyeong-hwa, a neighbor of Sung-chul, who always turns up during especially dramatic and dangerous times.

Frankly, anyone down with the so-called “Occupy” movement has no grounds to protest the villainy afoot in Hide and Seek, beyond the aesthetic (“kill less and smile more, because it looks better”). It is a tense and unsettling depiction of a family’s sudden vulnerability to a predator, ironically cloaked by its fringe outsider status. It also gives us a vivid idea of what follows when bourgeoisie principles of property rights and the sanctity of life are thrown by the wayside. Recommended for fans of dark psychological thrillers and k-horror, Hide and Seek is now available on DVD from RAM releasing.

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