Tag Archives: South Korean

Hotel Leikeu

If you think it’s hard to watch a foreign film in a language you don’t know while working, well, it is, but what I was going to say was, imagine how much harder it is when you watch the two halves of the movie with a gap of probably two weeks in between. So if you think this is going to be a shitshow of a review: fair.

Lingering is a haunted hotel story, a la The Shining. A young Korean woman is called upon to care for a disruptive younger sister she never even knew existed, which is also how she learns that her mother has died by suicide. At a loss for how to take care of a little girl, she takes the sister to a hotel run by one of her mother’s friends, a place where she spent a lot of time as a child herself but which in latter days is seeing less and less business; now there are only a handful of employees and maybe one other guest?[1] Only, the little girl has visions of violence and death (to be fair, this was the disruption at school as well, so it predated the hotel), but then other people start dying in mysterious and/or suspicious ways, depending on whether you think you’re in a ghost story (as our hero does) or a crime story (as the investigating police do).

Sometimes, I think movies aren’t very good but wonder if I failed them instead of them failing me, by watching while working. This time, I’m quite sure the movie was good and I would have enjoyed it more watching it at night, but at minimum all in one sitting. (This was not a choice I made, just an oops.)

[1] The rundown, “nobody comes here” aspect put me in mind of an additional hotel movie, to be honest.


I feel like this is a movie I should have heard of before it came up as the next podcast movie, or maybe I did and later forgot? The Host, a title I do not believe I understand[1], tells the story of a chemically mutated fish monster that rises from the depths of the Han River in Seoul, South Korea, and terrorizes, well, obviously the whole city and sort of the country and the world, but specifically a very diversely talented family: the grandfather who owns a food truck down by the river, his daughter who is an Olympic class archer, his son-in-law who is a bit of a layabout, his teenaged granddaughter who is the child of the previous two, and his alcoholic son. They are terrorized, specifically, by the monster choosing to take and devour the granddaughter.

There’s honestly a lot to unpack in this movie. Fears about pollution and the continued US presence in South Korea are front and center, but also fears of central authority, a theme I’ve seen running throughout almost all of the Korean horror (film or TV) I’ve watched over the past several years. But all of that is thesis material I’m just not up to thinking about at the depth it deserves. I bet this dude I know named Trent has some opinions, though.

Really, what it mostly is is an old-fashioned rollicking monster movie, a la Them or Gojira. The effects are dated, but the monster itself is fantastic, and I cared about the family. Will the archer get over her her crippling perfectionism? Will the layabout and the alcoholic overcome their natural proclivities? Will the government stop getting in the way? The more I think about it, the more of a throwback movie it becomes in my estimation. But, you know, in a good way.

The runtime is probably 30 minutes longer than it needed to be, though.

[1] Gwoemul translates as Monster, a title that makes a lot more sense. *shrug emoji*

Busanhaeng 2: Bando

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is the second entry in the TtBCU[1], and even though it wasn’t on the list of Korean horror films for last(?)[2] week, I did the research and confirmed for myself that it counted (same director and writer as Train to Busan, and made by South Korean companies). So, that’s what we watched!

As discussed in the tagline, the movie is set four years after the events on the train, and in that time… well, the short version is North Korea was finally useful for something besides human misery. Since South Korea is on an isolated peninsula[3], they were able to use their otherwise pointless and/or actively evil military to contain the zombies, and then everyone else just stopped letting escaping boats in without incredibly onerous health checks of the kind that I think we’ve proven would not actually occur in the real world, but. And so, South Korea is a zombie-infested wasteland, and the rest of the world is all, “Huh. I guess that happened.” And the few people who did get out are mostly disliked refugees, so at least they got that part of how we’d behave correct.

Anyway, that’s all setting for a heist-and-redemption story precipitated by an army guy and his embittered brother-in-law being roped into a shot at 50% of the take on a truck full of money just sitting there, waiting to be taken by whoever can survive. It has every trope you’d expect and then some, but you know what? I liked it. (Arguably, that’s why I liked it?)

Thanks, Korean horror community!

[1] There is no TtBCU
[2] When I started this, we were potentially only a week behind. A lot of water has passed under the bridge between then and when I finished it.
[3] Hey, I see what they did there!


I’ll get the easy part out of the way. The Wailing is a supernatural mystery in which a lot of people in a small town are killing each other in zombiepocalypse-adjacent ways, but with no transmission of disease. Is the problem drugs? Mushrooms? Demons? Ghosts? Evil spirits? (Do Koreans distinguish between the latter three possibilities?) But then it turns personal when a local cop’s daughter is possessed by the same force. On the one hand, we never see the incubation period of the drugs-or-mushrooms-or-demons in any of the other murderous victims, so her slow deterioration might still be perfectly reasonable under any of those explanations, but on the other hand, she’s a little too young to have gotten mixed up in drugs or random forest mushrooms, probably.

The meat of the movie, though, is what I want to talk about, except it’s entirely spoilers, more than the arguably too many I’ve already provided, so I’ll go to a cut.

Continue reading


Warning: Do Not Play is a movie about a student film called Warning, which the plot of the movie (not of the student film) exhorts you not to play. Well, okay, maybe not you, but it is exhorting everyone in the movie not to play it, and especially the not quite a student herself yet also not quite an auteur movie script writer / I’m pretty sure also director who has nevertheless become obsessed with it while trying to finish the script for her own horror movie.

Broadly, obsession is what the movie is about, and also the movie-within-the-movie probably? Mi-Jung’s life, what little of it there is in the first place, seems to quickly spiral out of control, at least any time she isn’t hunting clues to Warning‘s existence, or to its director’s identity, or to the filming locations. And anytime she is hunting for all of these things, she is surrounded by danger. Because Asian ghosty horror movie, y’know?

I liked it. It was either extremely dreamlike or playing with time loops, and I’m not sure which. Probably not both? Later events offer a third option, but that feels like a spoiler even by my semi-loose “look, we both know you’re not going to watch this” standards.

You will not like it if: a) you are allergic to not really knowing what just happened, for certain, or especially if b) you find yourself yelling at the writer lady every time she pulls out her phone during a dramatic confrontation and takes photos instead of hitting record. Come on, lady, you want to make movies! Remember?! (But I did appreciate the verisimilitude of how badly cracked her phone’s screen was.)


It’s no secret that I love a good zombie movie, which I define as one in which the zombies act as a setting upon which the truth of the characters is revealed. I freely acknowledge that this setting is, in the vernacular, “played out”. I should clarify, as I think that usage mostly means, ugh, zombie makeup and biting people, whereas what I mean is that there may not be anything new to say about the truths of characters in that apocalyptic situation.

That said, I still do love a good zombie movie, even if it’s one I’ve seen before (metaphorically or literally, although this time definitely the metaphorical version is at issue). Train to Busan tells the story of a hedge fund manager and his nearly-estranged young daughter, off to visit her mother (his ex-wife) on the occasion of her (7th? 8th? 6th? …let’s say 7th) birthday. The high speed bullet train is full of characters: elderly sisters, a C-level business executive, a high school baseball team and its cheerleader, a pregnant couple, some homeless guy who’s already seen too much on a day that most of the passengers don’t even know is unusual, oh, and a lady with a bite on her leg who just barely made it on before the doors closed.

Over the course of their trip to Busan[1], these people (especially the hedge fund manager, you understand) will learn a lot about each other, themselves, and what’s really important. Also, most of them (especially the ones I didn’t paint a picture of above) will die. Because that’s what happens in a good zombie movie. Both parts, I mean. My point is, this one was indeed a good one, and “seen it before” or not, I approve.

[1] Do I want to play a heavily-skinned remake of Tokaido based on this movie? Maybe!