Starring Yun-Ah Song, Hyeon-jun Shin, Seung-wook Kim
Directed by Sang-Gon Yoo
Released by Tartan Films
In order to articulate the abomination that is Face, I turn you towards the DVD box. Here is the synopsis, word-for-word as it’s written on the back:
A serial killer is burning away the flesh of his victims with acid, leaving only the bones behind. The police turn to Hyun-min, a former forensic sculptor adept in reconstructing faces by examining and interpreting skulls. With the victim’s bones in the house, Hyun-min’s daughter begins to experience disturbing visions. As he races against time to find the answers and save his daughter, the deadly truth behind these victims reveals a sinister conspiracy that threatens everyone involved.
Wow! Doesn’t that sound exciting? Here’s my synopsis:
A guy stares at a skull for eighty minutes.
Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, too, but Face is filled with wall-to-wall talking heads that are just as riveting. To be fair, you can’t really sell a film by advertising stilted character development and technical jargon, but that’s really all this one has to offer. To top it off, there are at least three different films buried in the story, none of which come together in any cohesive way.
First, we have the traditional serial killer movie… but where the hell is the killer? We only get a glimpse of him during the pre-credits sequence before he completely disappears from the story, spare a brief appearance in the film’s final minutes. We never see him kill again, so any sense of urgency is gone from the start. Kevin Spacey’s “John Doe” literaly had more screentime in the first hour of Se7en than our resident psycho has in the entire run of Face. Since the entire plot seems to revolve around finding this guy, you’d think the filmmakers would at least clue us in to his activities, but they don’t seem to care. This has to be a first: a serial killer so elusive, you forget that he even exists.
The second film in this bitter smorgasbord is the post-Ring Asian ghost flick. For reasons that are never explained, our hero and his daughter are being haunted by your typical Sadako knock-off. Is the ghost one of the killer’s victims? Why is she spooking our characters? The answers still must be in the screenwriter’s head, because the supernatural elements barely factor into the story and serve no purpose other than providing a few ineffective jump scares. I realize that the “yurei” (long-haired ghost girl-in-white) has been a part of Japanese mythology for centuries, but the filmmakers have no excuse. This is a Korean film after all, and Face even stupes to stealing iconic images (the famous “eye” shot from Ring is duplicated exactly). For shame!
The third and most prevelant genre is the police-procedural. Before watching this film, I used to rag on shows like “CSI” for their unrealistic portrayal of forensics. Now I realize that they’re glamorous for a damn good reason: real life forensics is akin to watching paint dry. I can’t help but draw comparisons to Ring 2, which featured a similar facial reconstruction on Sadako’s skull (and probably served as the inspiration for this mess). That idea was executed with a high creep factor and – most importantly – it was regulated to a subplot. In Face it takes up the majority of the film, thus killing any sense of fear. As dreadfully boring as it is, whenever these characters stop to talk about their feelings, you suddenly wish they’d get back to spouting gobbledygook.
Tartan Films gives Face a better treatment than it deserves on DVD. The picture and sound are pristine, and there are a host of subtitled extras, including cast interviews, a cool outtake reel, a look at the cast photo shoot, and the traditional photo gallery. It’s almost enough to make the disc a must-purchase for fans.
That is, if this deceptive import has any fans. If you’re looking for a chilling Asian horror film, you’d be better off with one of the many cheap Ring clones. If you’re looking for knowledge on the subject of forensics, my advice is to enroll in a science institute. You’ll find more excitement in a textbook.
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