Starring Junh-ah (Three…Extremes) Yum, Jin-hee Ji, Ji-Ru Sung

Directed by Jong-hyuk Lee

Released by Tartan Films

For such a relatively small country, it always amazes me the amount of cinematic output that comes from South Korea. It seems all the good Asian horror/thriller films originate from there, so when I sit down to dig a new entry I know I’m usually in for something that’ll keep me thinking. H is no exception, as it’s one of those films that leads you to believe one thing throughout its running time, then slams you with a plot twist out of nowhere just when you think you have it all figured out.

H begins with the discovery of two dead girls, 4 days apart from each other, who were murdered in particularly brutal ways by an unknown psycho. What makes the crimes more horrific than the usual random murder is that the girls are in their final terms of pregnancy, indeed a few days away from delivering.

We meet Detective Kang (Ji) as he begins his first day on the job, and even though it’s brought up at the very beginning, that fact really has no context outside of the insinuation that he’s the new guy. He teams with female detective Kim (Yum) to try and discover the madman behind these killings, but what really has them baffled is their similarity to 6 murders that happened 10 months previous, since that case had been closed when the killer showed up at the police station with his latest victim in a bag to confess to all of them.

The original killer, Shin Hyun, is safely locked away in prison awaiting his execution, so the first thing Detective Kang does is pay the man a visit. Hyun’s demeanor is very reminiscent of a young Hannibal Lecter, speaking in metaphors and near poetic diatribes in what we believe is an attempt to further confuse the police, and very little progress is made other than the assertion that Hyun knows a lot more than he’s willing to say. Another killer is witnessed by Kang killing a girl in the middle of a popular dance club and is brought to justice, and once again the police feel the case is closed, though the motivations behind them all still remain a mystery. With yet another murderer locked away, however, the violent crimes continue, and the whole situation becomes that much more confusing.

H is the kind of movie you really have to pay attention to, like any good psychological thriller cum horror film, and even though I had an idea of the twist long before it was finally revealed, its nature really threw me. Toss in some truly distributing visuals, even for a hardened horror freak like myself, along with one of the most bizarre and disturbing motivations for murder I’ve ever heard of, and you’ve got a very slick take on the serial killer subgenre.

As always, Tartan’s done a great job with the DVD transfer. The picture is top-notch and the sound, which is very vital in some scenes, is incredibly effective in 5.1 surround, something you can’t usually say for a relatively subdued (at least in terms of pacing) psychological thriller. The music was also done very well, as most scenes rely simply on room tones and over-miced sounds to generate the desired level of discomfort, even though there is an effective score in some of the more emotionally driven scenes.

Extras on the disc include a very cool alternative opening, which would have worked just as well in the film as the one they eventually went with, if not more so, though once you watch the entire movie you can see why they chose not to use it. There’s also a behind-the-scenes featurette showcasing the three leads learning all sorts of martial arts and shooting techniques. It’s a bit of a mystery as to why since none of the things they are taught are seen within the film, but eventually it does make sense; just stick with it. Those Koreans love to pre-hype their movies almost as much as we Americans do. The rest of the featurette focuses on the making of the film itself, seen through the eyes of a hand-held behind the scenes. Not overly enlightening, but not as boring as some such similar features, either.

H is yet another example of why Tartan is a company that will be around for a while. While not wholly original, it’s made well enough that I think even jaded U.S. viewers will find something to enjoy in it. I know I did.

So what does the title mean, you may be asking? That’s one of those things you’re going to have to find out for yourself, friends; but trust me, it does have meaning.

3 1/2 out of 5

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Johnny Butane

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