Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Kang Shin-il, Hwang Jeong-min, Kim Seo-hyeong, Yu Seon
Directed by Shin Tae-ra
Distributed by Genius Products
There’s no place like home … TO DIE!
That’s the actual tagline on the DVD of Black House, which tries to pass this South Korean import off as some sort of blood-soaked killer house movie. Nope. Not at all. What we’re left with is something far more terrifying: The horrors of home insurance.
Jun-oh (Jeong-min Hwang) is a geeky insurance investigator who answers a call to a family’s dilapidated home where he discovers the young son hanged in his room. Immediately following the tragedy, the boy’s insane father begins stalking Jun-oh at all hours, begging for the insurance money. The police barely suspect foul play, even though the man shows several telltale signs of a mentally-unstable person, like leaving dead animals on doorsteps and biting his own finger off in public. Desperate for answers, Jun-oh eventually meets with a university professor which leads to the following conversation:
The professor then launches into a detailed explanation about psychos, as if they’re mystical wood-nymphs that no one knows about. Just in case you’re still not sure what an actual psychopath is, don’t worry, there’s another long research montage where our hero dives into several more psych textbooks, one of which boldly states “These people don’t have hearts.” Literally?
At about the hour mark, there’s a twist that turns Black House into a completely different movie. It’s impossible to explain the absurdity without divulging spoilers, so be warned: As it turns out, it’s all the wife’s doing, not her psycho hubby. In fact, she’s had a history of collecting insurance money from her previous dead husbands and at no time did the authorities ever take this into account. What starts out as a painfully slow psychological mystery randomly switches gears to a frenetic slasher film and no cliché is left untouched.
The last twenty minutes – featuring more endings than The Lord of the Rings – involves Jun-oh making every stupid and cowardly decision to ensure that his ass gets repeatedly handed to him by a knife-wielding woman half his size. To be fair, there’s a cool Clive Barker inspired set-piece and some graphic bloody shocks tossed in, but every great moment is followed up with something laughable. There’s also a half-baked plot point involving Jun-oh’s tragic past which appears in the first act and is never again addressed until somewhere around the story’s second twist ending.
Still not sure what a psychopath is? Well, you’ll learn plenty more from the cast and crew on the DVD featurette, The Truth About Psychopaths which is your average fly-on-the-wall making-of documentary. More superfluous is The Secrets of Black House which talks about the production design – an odd choice, given that most of the film takes place in boring office buildings. Over twenty minutes of deleted/extended scenes round out the disc and you’ll thank the makers for cutting each and every frame.
Somewhere around the third ending, I ultimately lost track of what message the filmmakers of Black House were trying to feed us, so I’ll just go with one of Jun-oh’s brilliant observations: ”I never knew insurance could kill people.” Hopefully we’ll get a sequel where the killer turns out to be the lizard from Geico.
2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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