It has been a long time since I had seen a truly creepy Korean ghost movie, and that was "A Tale of Two Sisters" way back 2003. "Train to Busan" (2015) had all those zombies but it was more of an action film, than horror. "The Wailing" (2016) had a malevolent demon, but it was more a gory murder film than ghostly. There are plenty more, but I do not get enough chances to see more of them.
This latest K-Horror flick "The Mimic" is said to be the latest box-office winner in South Korea, and the first one to notch more than a million tickets sold in four years. I guess it was this proven box-office appeal that led it to be distributed in more Asian, European and American countries. I am always up for these foreign horror flicks especially those stories which employ unique local legends.
A young couple moves into an isolated old house near the mountains with their daughter and the wife's demented mother. The wife Hee-yeon is still having a hard time dealing with the disappearance of their little boy a year or so ago. Her husband, who ran a dog shelter, Min-ho, tried very hard to keep normalcy in their household.
One day, a disheveled little girl in a dirty red dress knocks on the door of their house. Hee-yeon decides to take her in but tarried in reporting her to the police. At first mute, the girl eventually calls herself the name of their daughter Jun-hee, and actually sounds a lot like her as well, causing Hee-yeon to grow attached to her. Since then though, various familiar voices begin to be heard around the house, then people begin to disappear.
The big portion of the film's uncomfortably creepy horror was thanks to the riveting performance of cute 8- year old child actress Shin Rin-ah as the mysterious little girl from the woods. She has an innocent lovable face, so you cannot blame Hee-yeon's impulsive decision to adopt this girl. This must have been a harrowing shoot for this child actress with all those traumatic scenes she had to do -- like getting stuffed into a porcelain jar, or sitting between two dogs holding a shard of mirror glass as protection, etc...
Yum Jung-ah, who played the spooked mother Hee-yeon here, was the same actress who played the spooked stepmother Eun-joo in "A Tale of Two Sisters." She has this thing she does with her eyes and that long black hair that make her perfect for looking scared in these horror flicks. Her Hee-yeon does the most illogical decisions given her circumstances, but then what horror film does not have a lead character who does not do these outrageously stupid decisions?
Park Hyuk-kwon portrays the father Min-ho. He basically plays supportive husband here, nothing much more. Heo Jin is the senior actress who plays Soon-ja, the grandmother with Alzheimer's disease. Her scenes where she was hearing voices of her older siblings were very unsettling. Gil-Hae-yeon played a blind neighborhood psychic who figured out what was wrong with Hee-yeon. I thought she should have used a wig to cover her modern hairstyle which did not fit her character.
Lee Jun-hyeok (the actor who played Eunuch Jang in K-drama "Love in the Moonlight") was intimidating as the Middle Age Man possessed by the "Tiger of Mt. Jang" and was thus able to mimic voices to haunt people. Those scenes where he was trying to smash out of mirrors and crawling out of caves were the outright scariest scenes in the whole films that kept you at the edge of your seats. I wish they delved more about the Jangsan Tiger legend for the benefit of those unfamiliar with it.
Overall, this film had all the horror elements done right especially in the sound effects mixing department. The acting of the two lead actresses Shin Rin-ah and Yum Jung-ah also drew us into the dramatic aspects of the story.
However, I thought it had many loose ends in its storytelling for me to appreciate it more. I particularly did not like what happened inside the cave in the third act when a previously lost character suddenly came back out from out of nowhere. The unconventional ending may not be to everyone's liking. It did not work too well for me. 6/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."