• Gonjiam Haunted Asylum (Well Go USA) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Well Go USA
    Released on: September 18th, 2018.
    Director: Jung Bum-shik
    Cast: Seung-Wook Lee, Wi Ha-Joon, ark Sung-Hun
    Year: 2018
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    Gonjiam Haunted Asylum– Movie Review:

    Jung Bum-shik’s 2017 horror film Gonjiam Haunted Asylum opens with a prologue in which two teenaged boys, using a smartphone, record themselves trying to break into room 402 of the abandoned mental hospital from which the film takes its name. They boast to someone off camera about how they’re real men and that they’re not cowards – but of course, it doesn’t end well.

    From here, we meet a young man named Ha-Joon (Wi Ha-Joon), the brains behind a popular YouTube channel entitled Horror Times. The channel’s schtick? They check out supposedly haunted places and explore them, hoping to either prove or debunk the legends that surround them. For this latest endeavor, where he plans to get one million views on a live stream, he’s gathered up three young men - Sung-Hoon, Seung-Wook and Je-Yoon - and three young women - Ah-Yeon, Charlotte and Ji-Hyun – to serve as his team. These six will explore the asylum and, for the big finish, make it into the supposedly cursed room 402 while he stays in the basecamp and works the video switcher to control the broadcast.

    Armed with a host of consumer and more professional cameras, some handheld lights and live mics they head inside once night falls, and things quickly spiral out of control.

    We won’t spoil anymore than that. Let it suffice to say that while some of this found footage film’s twists are about as subtle as a slap in the face, just as many of them are quite effective. The first half hour of the movie, however, is pretty annoying. Here director Jung Bum-shik tries to develop the characters enough to make us care about them once they head into the creepy old building but it doesn’t really work. As such, we have trouble telling certain characters apart and even more trouble getting all that worked up about their respective plights – at least to start with. The movie does successfully build in intensity enough in its last half that, for better or worse, the character development almost doesn’t matter. We’re in there with the crew and seeing this all play out through their eyes and sometimes, yeah, it’s creepy. A few jump scares are fun but offer no lasting impact – there is some imagery that sticks with you though, and a couple of lingering shots and clever camera moves that really do keep you on the edge of your seat. If the performances are mostly just twenty-somethings running around and screaming, so be it, in the context of the story it works and hey, at least they’re pretty convincing in portraying actual fear.

    Fine – maybe the whole thing owes a reasonable debt to The Blair Witch Project and Ghost Adventures, particularly a certain scene that takes place towards the end of the movie – but setting the film in an old asylum keeps the atmosphere thick with dread. Gonjiam Asylum is a real place (CNN once called it one of the seven freakiest places on Earth, something the film is keen to exploit early on!) and it looks like some of the exteriors were shot at the actual location, but the place is currently privately owned and apparently the owner took issue with this. As such, the interiors are shot inside the former site of the Busan National Maritime High School. It hardly matters though, the details are all here and the location works perfectly for what the filmmakers set out to accomplish.

    Gonjiam Haunted Asylum– Blu-ray Review:

    This film was shot using a variety of handheld, consumer grade cameras and it shows. That said, as far as found footage movies go, this one looks fine. It’s made to look like a live streaming broadcast and as such there’s a lot of ‘shaky cam’ and what not employed. Additionally, the bulk of the film takes place inside a building that is, aside from handheld lighting, pretty much pitch black. Don’t go into this one expecting beautiful compositions and gorgeous cinematography presented in sterling high definition quality because you’re not going to get it but for what it is, it looks just fine.

    The Korean language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is on par with the video in that it’s meant to sound like found footage or a YouTube broadcast. As such, there are drop outs, moments where the levels peak, some distortion and some muffled dialogue. It’s all part of the show, so you can’t really fault the mix for this, and for the most part, it works. There’s strong bass during the jump scares, the dialogue is easy to follow when it needs to be and there’s decent channel separation in a few spots. Optional English subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read.

    Extras are slim, limited to a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Well GO USA Korean films (including The Mimic), menus and chapter selection. The disc comes packaged with a slipcover for those into cardboard.

    Gonjiam Haunted Asylum– The Final Word:

    The first third of Gonjiam Haunted Asylum is annoying, but stick with it. Once the action gets into the titular asylum, there are some neat twists, some good scares and some impressive atmosphere. Well Go USA’s Blu-ray release is disappointingly light on supplements but it looks and sounds quite good – those who can get into found footage style horror pictures should get a kick out of this one.

    Click on the images below for full sized Gonjiam Haunted Asylum Blu-ray review screen captures!