Wednesday, December 19, 2007

CELLO Movie Review

CELLO (2005)

Mi-Yu is a music theory instructor with a caring husband and two lovely young daughters. Today is Mi-Yu's birthday, but it is a also a day that brings back haunting memories when she learns that Hae-Yeong, the younger sister of her former classmate, Tae-Yeon, will be performing in the area. Along with the performance program, Mi-Yu receives an audio cassette from Hae-Yeong. That night, on her way home, she listens to the cassette and not moments after the classical music begins she begins to pass out and is nearly hit by a truck. She is unaware that this is only the first of a series of events that will slowly unravel around her because of the tape.

The following day, Mi-Yu takes her older daughter, Yoon-Jin, to the doctor. On the way home, they stop by a musical instrument shop, and Mi-Yu is compelled to buy Yoon-Jin a cello and begin to teach her to play, though Mi-Yu no longer plays herself. That night, a spirit which has invaded Mi-Yu's home shows herself for the first time and begins her reign of terror. As Mi-Yu's family begins to die, a connection is made between the cassette and the new cello, and she must slowly remember and come to terms with what happened to Tae-Yeon when they were younger, and also come to terms with what is happening in the present.

This is the first film for director Lee Wu-Cheol and writer Jeong Wu-Cheol. The creative duo are obviously influenced by elements from both American cinema and recent K-Horror and J-Horror films. The opening pre-credit sequence borrows a page from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, as classical music is interposed over a very bloody and dying woman, which lays the groundwork for the viewer to link music with death through the rest of the movie. The physical cello itself takes a note from THE RED VIOLIN as it is never fully disclosed as to whether the actual instrument is possessed or cursed.

The supernatural portions of the film all seem cribbed from the recent Asian horror films, including Japan's RINGU (this time with a cursed cassette, as well as a few stolen camera shots) and JU-ON (the female spirit has a white face and heavy black eyeliner) and Korea's PHONE (Mi-Yu receives phone calls on her cell through out the movie). These references do not go so far as to plagiarize, but merely stay within a tried and successful safety zone that the viewers will be familiar with.

On the technical side, Lee Wu-Cheol uses classic haunted house-style light and shadow to great effect as it plays with the eye and makes the mind expect voids to be filled with ghosts. As with any haunted house story, especially one focused on a musical instrument, audio plays a big role through the film. Startling musical cues amp up the jump scares to keep the pulse pumping, which are contrasted by quiet musical ambiance during dialogue. His cinematography is quite ambitious, and successfully uses it to tell the story as much as the dialogue. The use of repeating shots make earlier scenes of the film really pay off when it is discovered just how influential the spirit has been over Mi-Yu and her family.

Added all up, this is a strong first outing for the director and writer pair who seem to be playing by the K-Horror rule book for now, and sticking to their film school textbooks on how to make a scary movie. Only future cinematic outings will tell if they have what it takes to create their own style and originality.

Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen, with the original Korean soundtrack in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS. English and Spanish subtitles are included and easy to read. There is an audio commentary track by the director, which is quite technical and somewhat flat, a short behind-the-scenes featurette which offers interviews with the cast and crew, and several trailers for other Tartan titles.


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