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Original Title:
Geoul sokeuro

South Korea 2003

Thriller, Horror, Drama

Kim Seong-ho

Yu Ji-tae
Kim Myeong-min
Hye-na Kim
Gi Ju-bong
Jeong Eun-pyo Kim Myoeng-su Lee Young-jin

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Into the Mirror

Story: Wu Young-min (Yu Ji-tae) leads an uneventful live as a security manager in a big store of his uncle, because he had to leave the police force after he was a contributory cause of his partner's death. Being torn apart by his feelings of guilt and self pity he tries to build up a new life, but doesn't succeed. However, one day there are several strange suicides happening in the department store.
Being called to the crime scene of all people is an old colleague of Wu Young-min, Ha Hyun-su, who without any possibility of being misunderstand makes clear that he still holds Wu responsible for the death of his partner.
Concerning the case the two stumble across various clues after some time, which confirm Wu's theory and eventually make them believe that this whole case is actually a murder series. Maybe this is some sort of revenge trip of one of the relatives of the dead/injured of the fire that was wreaking havoc in the department store some time ago, which is also the reason why there is currently a renovation under way? Nonetheless, why are the victims always found in front of a mirror? Wu Young-Min suddenly is soaked up by a world in which not only ghosts seem to be real, but which also holds place for a parallel world - the mirror world...

Review: At first "Into the Mirror" seems to be your typical Asian horror movie. Mirror images suddenly act on their own and kill. There are also quite some shocking moments involved in those scenes. While the mirror theme is relatively inventive, the rest isn't and is similar to common horror flick stuff. Nevertheless, the movie's real problem is its genre mix, because it just doesn't work out. As already said, the first 30 minutes or the first hour of the film feels like a horror movie, until more and more the police-thriller-aspect prevails and the horror and mystery motif is pushed in the background, being merely a supporting theme now. It's like as if the director/script writer decided halfway through that it might be better to head into another direction. For the viewer this is rather irritating and causes us to feel not involved in the doings on screen.

It's also unfortunate, that the characters are drawn very one-dimensional. The ex-policeman haunted by guilt looks more like a caricature than anything else. The woman who suddenly appears out of nowhere and seems to be connected with the murders in some way or another is also just a small cog in the wheel, merely serving the purpose to bring the story forward. If the script doesn't provide anything concerning character development, then the actors can't do anything either. This is especially apparent when looking at the main protagonist. Yu Ji-tae had the opportunity to show his acting skills in movies like "Oldboy", but sadly not here.

For whatever reasons the script was written this character-unfriendly, as a matter of fact the story itself is really not bad. Over time you might feel disappointed, because we get presented with a relatively simple cop story, on the other hand there are also some surprising and unexpected twists. Especially the mirror theme is fascinating. At the same time, however, it is also one of the downsides, that you have to confront "Into the Mirror" with, because you could have done more with the subject. From time to time there are some hints that go into the right direction, but then again they just start to take a backseat. If this would have been a horror film through and through, which would have succeeded in letting our blood run cold if someone suddenly had to face his altered and awakened mirror image, the movie probably might have been a lot better.
The only upside is the ending, that can catch us completely off-guard and can be quite reconciliatory for the viewer.

The movie also has to get some credit for its sometimes really cold settings, which can add a lot to the atmosphere. There are a good amount of camera angles and little tricks that involve the mirror image theme and make good use of it. Optical tricks, like reflections and mirrored symmetry are often used and are very nice to look at.
Having in mind all of the accomplishments, it's the more sad that Kim Seong-Ho's debut isn't a pure horror flick. We can only hope that Kim will do better in the future, because he surely has some potential.

If you keep in mind, that you will be watching more of a police drama than a horror film, then "Into the Mirror" can actually entertain you. However, unfortunately the movie falls short of the viewer's expectations. Only the ending will get you in a conciliatory mood, even if there are several wasted opportunities concerning the mirror motif.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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