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Original Title:
Geukrakdo Salinsageon

South Korea 2007

Thriller, Mystery

Kim Han-min

Park Hae-il
Park Sol-mi
Seong Ji-roo
Choi Joo-bong
Park Won-sang
Ahn Nae-sang
Park Gil-soo
Yoo Hye-jeong
Kim Byeong-choon
Jeong Man-sik

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Paradise Murdered

Story: At the harbor of the Korean mainland a severed head is found. The police goes to the nearby "Paradise Island" which two years in a row was chosen the best secluded island of the country. However, when they arrive the investigators find none of the 17 residents, instead they stumble upon a lot of evidence that points to several cases of violent felony. What happened on that island?
When a few days ago a friendly atmosphere dominates a birthday party no one can forebode the horror that is about to break loose. During a card game a murder happens. There are two deaths the islanders mourn about and a third person, most likely the murderer, that has disappeared. The physician on the island, Woo-sung (Park Hae-il), tries to calm down the island residents while at the same time going on a search for the killer. His assisstant Gwi-nam (Park Sol-mi) wants to support him, but the physician is very cold towards her. Soon the island's residents suspect each other. It also doesn't make things easier that the story of a ghost on that island, which is now more frequently seen than before, is making its rounds. The first murder case was thus only the beginning of a whole series of gruesome acts.

Review: "Paradise Murdered" takes a very familiar story, in its core it's the Agatha Christie story "Ten Little Indians", and weaves a murder case around it that at some points leads to absurd consequences. Being intended as a mystery thriller the movie oftentimes crosses the line to more humorous grounds and this is even intended. Responsible for that are more than anything else some unusual characters that despite their initial sympathy factor still have something strange about them. Just the way you expect it from the residents of such an island. Of course we are constantly dealing with the question of who the true killer is but the fact that there are simply too few concrete leads we can work with make it somewhat frustrating to guess. Apart from that the strange actions of the island inhabitants are rather irritating which is what is more than anything else the reason why at some points we have the urge to laugh out confusedly. It this a black comedy after all? "Paradise Murdered" doesn't know that itself first but without a doubt it wants to be a thriller in the end. Therefore, the movie struggles with too many problems that can't make it a good thriller.

Naturally, there are some suspects after the first murder case but with time everyone on the island starts to behave odd in his very own way. The stress caused by this extreme situation may be responsible for that, of course, after all the murderer is still among them. But instead of toying with this fear director Kim Han-min lets things drift into comical realms in his debut work. Strange accidents lead to more deaths, every now and then we get to see the ghost of a woman who in order to protect her chastity was walled in, but instead of giving us the creeps those scenes have something funny about them as well. It is the kind of black humor that in fact could have been entertaining if it had been implemented consistently. In the beginning the island residents also talk about their theories and those are presented in shape of flashbacks in which a murderer dressed as a ninja is striking terror into people's hearts!

But there is nothing left of this comical aspect towards the end. This way, in hindsight, those comical insertions seem completely out of place. Moreover, there are often scenes in which odd things happen that only allow one conclusion concerning who the culprit is. However, after an accusation led to another accident or kill it turns out the the real murderer has to be someone else after all. This pattern is repeated several times and can create tension to a limited degree only. Guessing the real killer is almost impossible anyway since we get only sparse information, unless you trust your hunch, maybe then it's even too easy to get behind the killer's identity. But for what reason are all the characters acting so weird? What is the deal with the ghost, are the residents hallucinating, and where does the secret message come from which the drunkyard of the island gets and leads to another series of murders?

When eventually things get resolved there are actually answers to all the above questions. That in itself is laudible, however, it's completely frustrating as well since as a viewer you have had no chance to get behind it at all. If the scriptwriter had given only one hint the puzzle probably might have been solved too easily. Nonetheless, that's no excuse to take away the viewer's fun of guessing who the killer is. This also stands as the biggest problem of the movie. That is because such mystery thrillers are working mostly because of animating the audience to guess. But here it is as in a quiz where we get to understand in the end that we hadn't even the slightest of chances to win the million! Apart from that the revealing itself is also a bit too stretched and thus makes room for an unnecessarily lengthy epilogue that disturbs the classical peripety tenor. Such experiments are always welcome but only if they work out. And here they don't.

There is no explanation at any point why the movie takes place in the year 1986 either. The technical aspects of the movie are solid, but the story development is a bit unfocused and without the good acting achievements, which are oftentimes drifting into the comical, the movie would have been only half as entertaining. Park Hae-il ("The Host", "Jealousy is my Middle Name"), who also played in a similar themed movie called "Moss", can't serve as a character to sympathize with as he is cold and mysterious, but that's also where you get aware that every one of the characters was supposed to have something impenetrable about it. The missing tension, the incoherent atmosphere and a frustrating twist make "Paradise Murdered" only a mediocre thriller. Even though you can make out that the filmmaker had some goodwill you are better off with movies like the already mentioned "Moss" or the more quiet but also more captivating "Bedevilled".

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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