Directed by Yong-gyun Kim
Released by Tartan Asia Extreme
“One size kills all.”
If there’s a better tagline out there, by god, I can’t think of it. After all, the killer shoe subgenre is ripe for bad puns. Should there ever be a sequel, here’s hoping we’ll see the slogan “We’ll tear your sole apart” printed in big words across the poster.
In all seriousness, The Red Shoes is actually a film that takes this rather hokey premise and spins it into a rather classy psychological horror tale. Who knew a film about a pair of evil shoes could be this good?
Inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, this South Korean lensed flick follows Sun-Jae, a single mother who happens across a pair of, you guessed it, red shoes. The shoes invoke a supernatural trance of greed towards anyone they come into contact with, which leads to jealousy, anger, and even bloodshed. If Sauron forged high heels, it’d be this pair.
Sure, we’ve seen the “cursed item” thing done hundreds of times over and the idea seems too thin for a feature, but The Red Shoes has more than enough going for it to deliver a tight and memorable creeper. Director Kim Yong-gyun infuses the film with first class surrealism, ditching ghost pop-outs in favor of a more faceless ethereal threat and, for the most part, it works. While the script itself is standard fare and hits more than a few snags, the filmmaker effectively draws you into his world with a tight narrative and attention to detail. Atmosphere reins supreme through moody performances and a superb experimental score, but the true marvel here is the cinematography. The Red Shoes isn’t just visually-stunning, it may very well be one of the most gorgeous horror films ever made.
The film is mostly driven on psychosis, and while these aren’t the be-all-end-all of characters, they’re more than enough to hold our interest. Particularly harrowing are the scenes between mother (Kim Hye Soo) and six-year old daughter (Yeon-ah Park), who share a sadistic chemistry through the latter half of the film. As jealousy takes hold, the two scream, fight, and exchange physical blows in scenes that are absolutely shocking in their intensity. You really have to admire the courage of Yong-gyun for having the gull to film these scenes, as well as the child actress for giving herself over to such an extreme role.
Cast and crew discuss the challenges and psychology behind the film on the DVD extras. If you’re a Tartan fan, you know the drill: This is yet another impressive package incorporating sub-titled behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews, and even a director/cinematographer commentary track. You have to admire Tartan for all the love and care they put into each of their discs. Any other studio would have just slapped this out as a bare-bones release.
While this may not be the most original film under the sun, Yong-gyun executes his idea with enough panache to rise above the cliches. In a time where Asian horror has become over-saturated with bad imitators, The Red Shoes re-inforces many of the qualities that made the genre so endearing to begin with.
Behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews
Director/cinematographer commentary track
3 1/2 out of 5
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