Directed by Man-dae Bong
Distributed by Tartan Films
I really don’t see why this keeps happening. For whatever reason Korean and Japanese filmmakers seem to not be able to get past their fascination with ghosts; that, or they think they’re easy subject matter for the quick buck. Though Cinderella isn’t nearly as cliché-ridden as some other Asian output, it suffers from some logic issues and an unclear resolution.
Our story is about a female art student, Hyeon Su (Kyung), the daughter of a very successful plastic surgeon, Yoon Hee (Won). Her friends love that her mom has chosen this career path because they feel they have a direct line to continually improve their looks, something that’s hugely important to girls of all ages but especially rail-thin high school girls. Seriously, can someone give these girls a freakin’ hamburger now and then? Maybe a big bowl of spaghetti or something? They’re just freaky thin, man.
Anyway, as the movie opens one of Hyeon Su’s friends is going under the knife for a facelift, pretty standard stuff, but as the drugs start to take effect she thinks she sees the standard damp, longhaired ghost crawling across the operating floor right to her. But really, who hasn’t had a vision like that at least once? She wakes up and recovers (very quickly, so much so that it’s a bit disorienting) and though she thinks she’s prettier (she was no dog beforehand), she’s also experiencing increasingly terrifying visions and hearing whispers telling her “that’s not my face”.
As she loses it, Hyeon-Su begins to uncover more and more evidence that something is very wrong with what she knows of her life, which starts with a picture she finds of a horribly burned face from 12 years previous with her name on it. She tracks down her father to try and find out what it means, all the while the other friends that have had procedures by her mom (or so we have to assume, we never actually see them go under the knife or hear them discuss what they had done) start to have similar hallucinatory visions and an overwhelming desire to damage their (ridiculously thin) faces.
What sets Cinderella apart from most of its ilk is the bloodshed featured throughout. One would hope that a movie with plastic surgery at the core of its story would have a good amount of flesh mutilation, and in this director Bong doesn’t disappoint. It’s never excessive and mainly used for shock, but what there is of it is effective.
However Cinderella jumps around in time too frequently, which is off-putting and more than a little annoying. It’s bad enough that the mother looks young enough to be one of her daughter’s friends (seriously, it’s weird), but when you’re bouncing around from past to present without any film or style differences, it’s very easy to get confused as to what’s going on.
A combination of sloppy editing and badly lit scenes make the big reveal towards the end more jumbled than it had any need to be; luckily my wife was there to bounce around her ideas of what we saw so we could piece it together. The actual ending, however, is quite powerful with some real emotions coming through. We’re not exactly emotionally attached to the mother or the daughter throughout, though we do see the extent of the mother’s agony at the horrible things she’s done, but it’s enough to give the end some real impact.
Still not figured out the title? Me either, though it has something to do with the dark fable the eventual Disneyfied titular character is based on. Various times throughout the supplemental making-ofs, which were broken into five separate five- to seven-minute segments, the title is brought up by cast and crew and they seem to understand it, so I guess that’s all that matters. The subtitles in this feature, the only one outside of the film’s teaser trailer, are either badly done or the director makes no sense when he’s talking, so don’t look for any big revelations there.
Cinderella’s not as trite as some other Asian horror entries. It possesses a great sense of style and an interesting vision. The bloodshed and twisting storyline will likely keep viewers with the film from start to finish; I think the biggest issue with it is that fact that, upon reflection when the facts are in place, it still doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense. But it sure looks good!
3 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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