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Deep Trap - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Ham-jeong

South Korea 2015

Genre:
Thriller, Horror, Drama

Director:
Kwon Hyeong-jin

Cast:
Ma Dong-seok
Jo Han-seon
Kim Min-kyeong
Ji An
Kang Seung-wan
Jeong Gi-seop


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Deep Trap

Deep Trap - Film Screenshot 1

Story: So-yeon (Kim Min-kyeong) loses her baby which isn't just a traumatic experience for her, but also for her husband Joon-sik (Jo Han-seon), who since that day seeks solace in alcohol. Together the two do everything in their power for So-yeon to get pregnant again, but Joon-sik is still so absorbed by the miscarriage that he becomes impotent. So-yeon has already visited a doctor, too, because of this, but it is without a doubt that Joon-sik has become impotent because of the mental trauma and the pressure he is under. She suggests that they make a trip and so the two go to an island where they sit in a remote restaurant surrounded by nature. The owner of the restaurant, Seong-cheol (Ma Dong-seok), seems quite odd, especially since he treats his household help Min-hee (Ji An) like a slave. The food that is served also needs an acquired taste since it is all aimed at raising men's potency. Moreover, it sizzles between So-yeon and Min-hee. Seong-cheol doesn't mind if he wants to spend the night with her and it even seems that the visit of this odd restaurant was in fact planned by So-yeon in order to heal her husband from his impotence. However, the visit at the restaurant turns into a fight for survival...

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Review: "Deep Trap" is one of those thrillers where you know exactly what you get for your money. There is no bonus. Yet, the beginning of the film makes you hope for more. It doesn't take long for you to realize, though, that this is your standard story revolving around a couple from the big city that has to survive a clash with a killer at a cabin in the woods. This straight line is also what can win the movie some goodwill. In other words: Fans of this horror subgenre will have a fun time. But for everyone else the story proves to be a bit too predictable. That the movie completely lacks surprises of any kind and instead deliberately follows the common route of a psycho killer flick where the only exciting question is whether the protagonists manage to survive until the end or not can also be a frustrating movie experience. Because an inventive movie certainly looks different.

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However, there is very soon an interesting story hook becoming apparent. Because obviously it is the wife who planned the visit of the restaurant and even for her husband to cheat on her in order to cure him of his impotence. This is where even in modern Korea the extremely patriarchic oriented society shows its face, because for Western audiences all of this sounds rather implausible. The initial arc of suspense can be quite appealing, though. From the very get-go So-yeon has her reasons why she can't stand odd Seong-cheol - after all she isn't really pleased with her own plan - and there is tension between her and him. Sexual tension on the other hand is in the air when it comes to Joon-sik and mute Min-hee. These two aspects are what keeps the movie running nicely and constantly ups the suspense level. Furthermore, there is also a pretty explicit sex scene.

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The mystery surrounding the restaurant on a hill and its strange owners soon makes way for the certainty that the married couple eventually has to try escaping the clutches of a mad killer. At this point the movie starts to become rather uninteresting. Yet, it needs to be pointed out that the characters themselves sometimes can give us an unusual glimpse of depth. But that's probably the achievement of the actors/actresses who deliver good performances all throughout, which isn't really given in the genre. Jo Han-seon ("A Better Tomorrow", "My New Partner") plays a husband with alcohol problems who doesn't do everything right in his marriage and as the movie progresses makes even more mistakes. But that's actually what makes him almost three-dimensional. Just "almost" since the film doesn't want to be a drama after all, but clearly wants to dive into the more shallow waters of a horror thriller.

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Kim Min-kyeong has mainly played in dramas before and you can tell during the scenes where she is allowed to shed some tears. Still, her character is somehow the least likeable. Which naturally is even the more odd as Ma Dong-seok ("Chronicles of Evil", "The Five") plays a killer. But it's the friendly relationship which develops between Seong-cheol and the husband as well as the killer's smile that makes him win over our sympathies despite all else. It's a different story when you see him treat his "sister" like a slave, though. And of course he shows his whole brutal nature as a killer, eventually. Ma Dong-Seok is in fact the one element that manages to spice up the movie. Seong-cheol isn't the cliché-loaden psycho killer, but instead is somewhere between impulse-driven and cunning. In a certain way this makes him unpredictable.

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Kwon Hyeong-jin ("For Horowitz", "Wedding Dress") is an experienced director, but hides this fact behind a deliberate independent flick flair. This in fact creates suspense and towards the end you certainly will sit at the edge of your seat, if you are willing to overlook the typical weaknesses of such a flick. For instance, there are of course countless plot holes which are indispensable for creating a decent arc of suspense and there are also incredibly stupid characters. That's my fundamental problem with this subgenre of horror. The genre demands that the protagonists present themselves as victims and never really fight back in order to survive. This kind of survival-via-escape may be the actual appeal of the genre, but it also leads to the fact that the protagonists are acting so dumb that you may think the world would be a better place without them. If you don't have any issues with that you will get an absolutely solid thriller, mainly thanks to Ma Dong-seok.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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