Red Dead Reunion
Bloody Reunion begins with a scene straight out of a Korean version of Saw. The police uncover a grisly, blood-soaked crime scene at the country house of sickly former schoolteacher Mrs. Park (Oh Mee-hee), with only two survivors: Mrs. Park and Mi-ja (Seo Yeung-hee), a former student who now serves as her caretaker. Mi-ja recounts to the authorities the horrible events of the past day, which began as a simple, innocent reunion of six other classmates from elementary school.
From shy Jung-won (Jang Sung-won) to beautiful Sun-hee (Lee Ji-hyun), the now grown-up students arrive to reminisce and pay their respects to their old teacher. But some of the smiling faces hide the scars of a childhood ruined in some way by Mrs. Park, and as their own inner angers start bubbling to the service, a psychopath in a bunny mask has taken to slashing up the ex-students one by one, setting the stage for one bloody night to come.
After having sat through one boring "vengeful ghost" movie after another, I was about to give up on Asian horror cinema. But leave it to South Korea's Bloody Reunion to get some new blood (pardon the pun) pumping through my jaded heart. Rather than a derivative ghost story in which characters stare into space while true scares pass right on by, Bloody Reunion heads out on the path of the slasher film, sticking close to its roots while bringing a few cool elements of its own to the table.
The story comes with shades of Agatha Christie, specifically in the classic premise of a handful of people being killed off by someone in their own midst. Of course, in the wake of the popularity of The Hills Have Eyes and the Saw movies, this flick is arguably much gorier than anything Agatha ever thought of, but the spirit remains the same. Bloody Reunion doesn't simply rehash slasher genre cliches; in addition to a pretty distinctive set of characters, the script saddles them with enough psychological baggage to add a little more depth -- and *gasp* -- actual suspense to the story.
There are few greater cinematic feelings than having a good thriller keep you on your toes, and Bloody Reunion does a solid job of that. However, although an above average slasher flick, it still hangs onto a few tired genre chestnuts, from some tired dialogue to a red herring or two. As intriguing as the plot is overall, it runs into some awkward patches, especially in forgetting to provide a backstory behind one particular student's beef with Mrs. Park and not doing a complete job of fleshing out Mrs. Park's "evil" past.
Also, aside from some all-too-brief flashbacks, the film misses a crucial emotional connection that could've added to its quality. Still, the acting is solid enough to at least earn our sympathy for the characters, the climactic twist is unexpected, and the gore, though used in a small number of scenes, comes across as quite disturbing (with the ickiest scene involving a kettle of water and broken razor blades).
It's rare these days to see a thriller that actually thrills, but Bloody Reunion does the trick -- and it's not afraid to get its hands wet in the red stuff to do so.
MY RATING: *** (out of ****)
(Released by Tartan Video; not rated by MPAA.)