Released by: Mondo Macabro
Released on: February 14th, 2017.
Director: Go Yeong-nam
Cast: Kim Young-ae, Yoon Il-bong, Hyun-Hye-ri, Lee Ki-seon
Year: 1981 Purchase From Amazon
Seon-hee (Kim Young-ae) is a thirty-something housewife who grows increasingly concerned that her marriage to Yu-jin (Yun Il-bong) is starting to crumble. When he is home, which isn’t often, he seems to prefer to hang out with his friends and co-workers from the school he works at. He basically ignores her. He’s much more interested in his work cataloging different species of butterfly.
Things get… odd when Seon-hee notices something strange about one of Yu-jin’s slides. Where this would normally contain a butterfly, this one contains an image of a wooden doll. How this image got into the slide selection she does not know. Later, Yu-jin brings home a pretty young orphan woman named Mi-ok (Lee Ki-seon) to work as the couple’s live in maid. Seon-hee appreciates this at first. It makes her life easier and there’s no denying the fact that Mi-ok is very easy on the eyes – even Seon-hee has noticed this. But this happiness soon twists and turns into something else entirely when Seon-hee discovers that a pouch Mi-ok carries pouch contains the doll that she saw the strange picture of earlier. As luck would have it, Mi-ok’s mother was a witch of sorts and although she’s since passed on, the victim of a mysterious fire, he gave her the doll as a protective talisman.
When Seon-hee starts to suspect that Yu-jin is sleeping with the help behind her back, she starts to have strange visions involving a horrifying witch. Is Seon-hee starting to crack or is there something more sinister and supernatural at play here?
Both a twisted supernatural horror picture and a cinematic allegory for the stress we all fear as we age and start to lose our looks, Suddenly In The Dark is pretty trippy stuff. This is a wildly colorful film and a beautifully shot one at that. Director Go Yeong-nam isn’t afraid to try all manner of camera trickery here, utilizing kaleidoscopic effects and all sorts of weird camera angles to bring this psychologically tense picture to vivid life. There’s great use of light and shadow here as well, and some genuinely striking imagery is present throughout the picture. Add to that a genuinely interesting and frequently bizarre score and some slick, tight editing work and you wind up with a picture that is tense, well-paced and a treat for the eyes.
Performances are pretty solid here. Yun Il-bong is quite good as the distant husband. He’s clearly dedicated to his job, to the point where, yeah, you can see why this would upset his wife after some time. He shows affection to their daughter but is a bit cold with his better half. Lee Ki-seon is great as the mysterious made that Yu-jin literally finds wandering around and decides to bring home (never a good move). She’s a gorgeous woman but she’s also got a slightly sinister vibe to her, particularly when we see her clutching at that doll. Kim Young-ae steals the show, however. Her work here is excellent. We don’t once doubt her character’s sincerity and both her fear and her frustration become quite real in the latter half of the movie.
Mondo Macabro debuts Suddenly In The Dark on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in a new transfer that has been ‘restored from the best available elements from the Korean Film Archive.’ The results of this effort are impressive. Colors look beautiful here, especially the primaries, while skin tones look nice and natural. There’s not much in the way of print damage here to complain about at all while black levels are nice and deep but not at the expense of shadow detail. There’s good depth and excellent detail here as well as nice texture – nothing to complain about, really. The movie looks beautiful in its high definition debut.
The Korean language DTS-HD Mono track, which has optional subtitles available in English only, sounds just fine. There’s good balance here and a bit more depth than you might expect from a single channel track. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion and the score and sound effects sound quite strong without burying any of the dialogue in the mix.
Extra features for this release kick off with an interview with producer David Suh that runs twelve minutes. He starts off his interview by talking about how he got into the film production business and teamed up with Go Yeong-nam in the late seventies to then go on to a ridiculously prolific run together on this picture and quite a few others. Up next is an interview with critic Kim Bong-seok who gives us a twenty-two minute crash course in Korean horror films, talking up how they began and then how they started to change over the years while pointing out key genre titles from his homeland’s cinematic output.
Rounding out the extras is a four minute Korean Cover Cavalcade – basically a slideshow of vintage VHS cover art for Korean horror and genre pictures (all of which look amazing somehow!), the omnipresent Mondo Macabro preview reel, menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
Suddenly In The Dark is deliciously strange stuff, a uniquely Korean horror picture that taps into that country’s societal traditions and pulls out something dark and twisted. Mondo Macabro’s Blu-ray is a winner, presenting the film in beautiful shape and accompanied by some solid extra features. Highly recommended!
Click on the image below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!