Two genres mix in unique fortuneteller tale

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Sept 25, 2012 - 20:09
  • Updated : Sept 25, 2012 - 20:09

Director Shin Jeong-won returns with comic-horror movie ‘Ghost Sweepers’

One of the most anticipated local films this year was finally unveiled on Monday, mixing two seemingly irreconcilable genres for a unique fortuneteller tale featuring malicious ghosts and crime.

“Ghost Sweepers” is director Shin Jeong-won’s ambitious project to create another film that belongs to his own, distinctive style, which he calls as the genre of “comic-horror.” The film, a fortuneteller tale taking place in Korea’s rural town, in fact turned out to be both hilarious and spooky, resembling Shin’s two previous works, “Chaw” (2009) and “Sisily 2 km” (2004).
A scene from director Shin Jeong-won’s “Ghost Sweepers” ( NEW)

Shin’s feature debut, “Sisily 2km” was about thieves who together steal a large diamond and escape to a small town, where they run into manipulative villagers with dark secrets. The film was Shin’s first foray into the genre of horror-comedy, although most local critics called the film’s fusing of genres unsuccessful. His second film, “Chaw,” also belonged to the horror-comedy and monster genre, telling a story about rural town villagers being repeatedly attacked by a ferocious mutant pig.

The upcoming film is quite similar: It takes place in a remote, rural town, and viewers get to find out about the villagers’ dark secrets as its plot develops. However, Shin does not make fun of the film’s serious subjects, such as serious crime. It is the film’s shaman characters who make the piece so hilarious, as their self-interests conflict and their weaknesses are revealed.

The film begins as five professional shamans and fortunetellers gather in the town, said to be cursed by evil spirits, to perform an exorcism together. One of the shamans is an elementary-school kid who foresees the future, while the other is a Ph.D. holder in engineering ― who believes only science can define what spirits are. Meanwhile, a young female reporter from Seoul joins the team, to cover their rituals and the secrets of the cursed town.

Actor Kim Su-ro, who appeared as one of the four successful urban professionals in SBS’ hit drama show “A Gentleman’s Dignity,” plays Mr. Park, the team of shamans’ chief. The actor’s performance, as well as funny ad-libbing, brings plenty of comedy to the piece.

Actress Kang Ye-won (“Haeundae,” “Quick”) plays the reckless reporter, who was sent to the countryside after being unjustly demoted after writing about “chaebol” conglomerates. Kang pulls off the scenes which must have been a huge physical challenge, including the one where she had to go underwater wearing a 70-kilogram-heavy diving suit to find the remains of the dead. The movie gets even more suspenseful as it is revealed that the reporter’s late father, who was also a journalist, was killed while he was covering an incident in the very same rural town.

The movie has every required element to be labeled as “comic-horror.” However, it is clear that the film could have benefited from a shorter running time and a tighter narrative.

Some of the movie’s CG of the ghosts is definitely frightening, to a degree that they remind of the Korea’s legendary horror TV series “Hometown Legends.” Meanwhile, some of the other ghosts take the form of typical Hollywood B movie monsters, which also create an interesting mix of local and foreign images of ghosts.

“Ghost Sweepers” opens in theaters on Oct. 3. 

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)