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Original Title:
Hyeol-ui nu

South Korea 2005

Thriller, Mystery

Kim Dae-seung

Cha Seung-won
Oh Hyeon-kyeong
Chang Suk-Won
Choi Ji-na
Ji Seong
Park Yong-woo
Choi Jong-won
Jeong Gyu-su
Jeon Ho-jin
Yu Hae-jin
Yun Se-ah

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Blood Rain

Story: On a small, solitary island in Korea people live quite well in the year 1808 thanks to a paper mill that guarantees them regular income. However, one day a ship burns down that was supposed to deliver a big cargo of paper to the mainland among it also the tribute that was to be paid to the king. When after that a murderer strikes terror into people's hearts because of his gruesome killings an investigation is instituted by the government, lead by Won-kyu (Cha Seung-won). He discovers that the murder cases are connected to the events seven years ago involving the former paper mill owner who was found guilty of being a Catholic and therefore was executed by the government along with his family in truely gruesome ways. The killer now imitates the killing methods with which the paper mill owner's family was murdered so that the island residents begin to believe that the ghost of the deceased wants to take revenge. Won-kyu doesn't believe in a supernatural explanation, though, and so he starts to assemble evidence that slowly lets him uncover the events seven years ago. Still, the killer always seems to be one step ahead of him and victims are piling up...

Review: "Blood Rain" is a period drama that unjustly has been overlooked as it features a complex detective story which is also exciting to watch thanks to the nice sets. Director Kim Dae-seung who formerly focused on romantic dramas with his movie "Bungee Jumping of their Own" or his "Traces of Love" that should follow this film manages to create an unusually bloody and at times dark thriller which more or less plays within a historical frame. Since Korean period movies never really managed to excite me it is even the more amazing that the film's setting actually adds greatly to the fantastic atmosphere of the film. The superstition of the island residents, traditional rituals performed by female shamans and the supernatural nature of the story that comes with it only really shows to advantage in this context. Thus, "Blood Rain" proves to be an exceptionally captivating thriller that is a little bit different than your usual thriller thanks to its setting and which stands as something special.

Kim Dae-seung's movie somehow always remains a mystery thriller in its core, but Won-kyu's approach concerning his investigation resembles scientific police work in which western sciences are utilized as well. The movie gets its actual appeal through the implementation of traditional rituals and a female shaman who makes available talismans for the superstitious island residents to ward off evil ghosts etc. This traditional deep rooted way of thinking clashes with the scientific approach of the investigator and builds up a certain kind of tension. Won-kyu is introduced to us as a smart cookie right away who solves a case by drawing logical deduction and doing good police work almost in no time. But his newest case is a complex net of motives and possible suspects which puts him in front of an seemingly unresolvable puzzle. Everyone on the island seems to be hiding something and feels responsible for the death of the former paper mill owner which doesn't make it easy for the investigator to get his hands on information.

The two script writers Kim Seong-jae and Lee Won-jae (latter mainly being responsible for the screenplays for some romantic comedies like "She's on Duty", but also the action film "City of Violence") deliver a great story that is full of twists and revelations. There is nearly not a singly minute in which a new clue doesn't turn up, Won-kyu has some inspirational thoughts or new information sheds a different light on the whole case. You could almost say that the story is a bit overloaded, especially when Won-kyu's past catches up with him. The story is so tricky and encapsulated that it asks for the viewer's full attention. Unfortunately, as the story unfolds some problems concerning the names and faces can turn up as new names are thrown at you almost every minute and the faces are nearly indistinguishable as the officials all wear the same costumes and hats and furthermore also share the same hair cut.

"Blood Rain" also features some flashbacks which aren't really marked as such, yet it is surprisingly easy to distinguish these scenes from the rest of the movie. Also, the nice pictures, costumes and some small details like the ships deserve to be pointed out here as they all add to creating an almost magical atmosphere. Magical are also some of the supernatural elements which seemingly can always be interpreted through means of worldly explanations. Sadly, I can't turn a blind eye on the much discussed and criticized ending. The fact that there is a supposed twist into the supernatural realm during the last minutes has made a lot of viewers angry. For me the only question would be why? That's because it's easy to come up with a scientific explanation for it here, too. To me it seems more supernatural that frogs come raining down on you and this actually happened in the real world and has an easy worldly explanation! Contrary to this case the ending of "Blood Rain" doesn't really look that supernatural to me, instead the filmmakers toy with the conscience of the island residents and their superstition.

Kim Dae-seung also draws the confucian centered class society of Korea and criticizes it on some occasions. These small elements are what enrich the already intelligent story even more. However, what needs to be criticized is the fact that the viewer is never put into a position to guess the real identity of the culprit himself as we only get necessary information too late for us to work with and there is simply a general lack of information. Still, the movie always remains thrilling and offers some offbeat bloody murder scenes of which the quadrisecting as the official execution method at that time remains being burnt into your memory for a while thanks to all the small details shown. This is nothing for the faint-hearted! Moreover, the depiction of the actual butchering of some chickens for shamanistic rituals is distressing as well. The extremely thrilling story and some incredibly brutal scenes make you lean back on your coach totally exhausted as if just having had a rollercoaster ride. If you get the chance you really should watch this well done mystery thriller which just missed a better rating by inches. The fantastic detective story and the great atmosphere make "Blood Rain" absolutely worthwhile!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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