Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Kim Sung-Hong
Starring Chu Ja-Hyeon, Jeon Se-Hong, Moon Seong-Geun
Distributed by Cine Asia
Arguably the UK’s current best DVD label for Far Eastern imports, Cine Asia continues their trend of bringing high quality flicks to our shores with Korean serial killer flick Missing, aka Sil Jong.
Spending little time in getting into the nitty gritty, Missing opens with aspiring starlet Hyun-ah (Jeon) accompanying a sleazy young director to discuss her potential role in his new film. On their travels, they decide to stop at a dilapidated farm apparently famous for its chicken soup. The owner, Pan-gon (Moon), is a reserved, mumbling, creepy character who, rather expectedly, makes quick work of the young director before taking the budding actress to his makeshift dungeon to suffer a prolonged period of abuse, rape and misogynistic degradation.
Arriving shortly behind the disappearance is Hyun-ah’s older sister, Hyun-jung (Chu), who finds herself in a race against time to locate her missing sister and convince the disbelieving local police force that old Pan-gon has something to do with the disappearance. Eventually enlisting the help of a reluctant rookie cop, Hyun-jung too falls into the murderer’s hands – leading her into a battle of wits and, eventually, brute force in order to survive.
Missing is, in essence, an exploitation flick through and through. Director Kim Sung-Hong smothers the entire affair in a dusty, filthy sheen, and lead actor Moon is disturbingly effortless in his portrayal of the hideous Pan-gon. Relegated to spoon-feeding gruel to his disabled, catatonic mother and shuffling around the farm in between raping and physically and verbally abusing his captives (it seems Pan-gon has a few emotional issues with regards to his past wife that haven’t quite been dealt with!), the man is an astoundingly vile creature. Relishing in his hold of sadistic control over others, his sneering scowls and hatred-filled stares are natural to the point of being barely noticeable by fellow villagers who see him as nothing more than an old, bumbling idiot. This is one villain who really makes you want to take a bath.
The rest of the cast are perfectly fine, though admittedly they do play second fiddle to the human monster at the centre of the story – mainly relegated to begging, screaming and dying up until just desserts are served. The more lofty and artistic approaches that audiences may be used to from the best of modern Korean genre cinema are completely absent here, which does feel like a shame as Missing ultimately ends up being a well-made and effective shocker, but nonetheless an unsurprising entry into the serial killer/torture genre. Relatively reserved in terms of gore, it does on the other hand offer up a decent amount of brutality – axes in heads, bodies ground up, etc. – but it’s the scenes of abuse and rape that may make it hardest to watch for some. Pan-gon’s treatment of his female victims is unflinching and unrestrained, leading to a number of deeply uncomfortable lingering shots and acts of cruelty.
Partway through the runtime, Missing does throw a turn of events at the audience which is likely to make most viewers sit upright in shock; a pity, then, that things never really take off in such an unexpected direction again, but rather settle back into the formulaic procedure by which the story began and continues until the end. That doesn’t mean that the flick is a write-off, by any means, but it does display a potential and talent that it fails to properly capitalise on. Moon’s utterly filthy turn as the despicable Pan-gon is alone worth seeing it for, but don’t expect too many surprises.
Cine Asia’s DVD presentation of Missing is pretty much spot on in terms of audio and video. The image remains solid and detailed despite the muted palette, dusty exteriors, and dank, filthy interior scenes. Audio provides a choice of Dolby Stereo or 5.1, and truthfully either one is perfectly serviceable for a film that is high on dialogue and never intended to exhibit on a bombastic soundstage. Unfortunately, the only special features to be found here are the teaser and theatrical trailers for Missing alongside a selection of other Cine Asia titles.
3 out of 5
1/2 out of 5