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Original Title:

South Korea 2004

Horror, War

Kong Su-chang

Kam Woo-seong
Son Byung-ho
Oh Tae-kyung
Lee Seon-gyun
Park Won-sang
Ahn Nae-sang
Kim Byeong-cheol

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Story: Vietnam, 1972. A Korean military base receives the SOS signal of a unit that was believed to have been killed in action 6 months ago. Therefore a team of 9 men led by Lieutenant Choi Tae-In (Kam Woo-seong) is sent to the so called R-Point to check the situation and find the missing unit. On their way through the jungle they pass a place which is sacred to the Vietcong. On a stone they find the inscription that those who spilled blood shall never return home.
The unit eventually arrives at R-Point and take up a position in a big rundown, abandoned building. Soon the first soldiers start to see shadows in the thick fog, between the tall grass and in the swampy lands. When one member of the team dies and it turns out that he is in fact one of the guys of the team that went missing 6 month ago, which the 9 men are actually looking for, madness slowly creeps into the men's mind....

Review: To let a horror movie take place at a battlefield makes sense. Where else do people die such unnecessary deaths, leaving this world with so much unfinished business? To choose Vietnam as the play house does make even more sense. Many people do not know that right next to the USA, South Korea was the country who sent the most soldiers to Vietnam.
However, if you're expecting a Korean "Apocalypse Now" you'll get disappointed. Nonetheless the horror in "R-Point" is also more on a psychological level, even though there is also some supernatural stuff to be found here.

After we get a short introduction of the unit that is going to the R-Point, a poor bunch of soldiers who have only one week left until they can return home, we are already thrown right into the jungle. The tall gras, the moor that is always covered by a thick sheet of fog, rustling in the undergrowth, this all adds to a very tense and creepy atmosphere, that leaves us asking for more. Sadly, the movie has its lengths and oftentimes there are moments where nothing is happening at all, while the troop is sneaking through the jungle.

When the unit discovers the inscription, that those who spilled blood will never return, it's pretty obvious for the audience, that most likely no one of the soldiers will survive this trip in the end. As a matter of fact soldiers shed blood and the unit led by Lieutenant Choi Tae-In surely isn't an exception to this rule. With this prediction in mind the film loses a lot of its tension. As we already know, that the troop won't survive there is only the question left who is biting the dust when and how.

"R-Point", as many other War-Movies, too, has to struggle with the fact that there is too little time to introduce us to the several characters. This way, somehow everyone looks alike and the viewer can't sympathize with anyone. Moreover, the story is a bit too confusing and leaves too much room for interpretations. Nevertheless, one of the movie's upsides is that as the movie advances the atmosphere gets more and more tense and depressing. This is supported by some nice sets, for example the abandoned building, which becomes the unit's military base.

If you're hoping for your typical Asian horror stuff, then you'll definitely get disappointed. Altough, there actually is a young girl again, that terrorizes the soldiers as a ghost, this one is more in the background of the story. It's fascinating that the "ghost" doesn't even kill one single soldier directly, but instead takes possession of them and kills through them. This gives the film a whole new dimension, as it suggests that the girl is maybe just an externalization of the fear the soldiers are suffering from, slowly driving them crazy. In fact, when viewing the movie in this light it all makes much more sense.

The last 30 minutes are a highlight, because now the soldiers go absolutely crazy and lose themselves in lunacy one after another, until they go against each other. You can nearly see that they can't take the pressure anymore. They can't deal with their fear and feelings of guilt and slowly something starts to break inside of them. Just a few people, isolated and caught in one place, something terrible is happening and above all else it takes place on war play ground - of course something has to go awfully wrong in the heads of the soldiers.
It's worth it to think and reflect about the seemingly unsatisfying ending, because you might get some interesting ideas, that can make you see the film with a different pair of eyeballs.

"R-Point" is a pretty well done antiwar movie, that isn't that creepy in the common way, but which instead delivers a good portion of psychological horror. If one would have focused more on the different characters, so that their trip into madness would have been more apparent, better visualized, and above everything else if the movie would have avoided some lengths, this could have had it what it takes to become a very good movie. Nonetheless, "R-Point" is still a film worth recommending!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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