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The Silenced - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Gyeong-seong-hak-gyo: sa-la-jin so-nyeo-deul

South Korea 2015

Genre:
Mystery, Horror, Drama

Director:
Lee Hae-yeong

Cast:
Park Bo-yeong
Park So-dam
Eom Ji-won
Kong Ye-ji
Joo Bo-bi
Park Seong-yeon
Park Se-in
Sim Hee-seop


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The Silenced

The Silenced - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Joo-ran (Park Bo-yeong) is brought to a girls' school by her mother, which also serves as a sanatorium. There she makes friends with the girl Yeon-deok (Park So-dam). Thanks to her Joo-ran's bad health soon gets better. The medicine administered by the sanatorium's head (Eom Ji-won) also helps. However, there is a bitter rivalry among the girls at school. Since in 1938 Korea is occupied by the Japanese and Tokyo is the center of all hopes and dreams all the girls want to go to the Japanese capital. Yet, there are only two girls chosen from the school who are allowed to go to Japan. The criteria to be chosen are exceptional physical achievements. While Yeon-deok has her ticket almost in her pocket, Yuka (Kong Ye-ji) has to fight for her place in the race since the once fragile Joo-ran suddenly shows extraordinary physical prowess, after her medical condition has improved. At the same time more and more girls vanish, although the sanatorium's head mistress assures that those girls have simply returned to their families. One of the students gone missing in the past had the Japanese name Shizuko, just like Joo-ran. And that girl also was friends with Yeon-deok...

The Silenced - Film Screenshot 2 The Silenced - Film Screenshot 3
The Silenced - Film Screenshot 4

Review: There are some filmmakers who already had to make the unpleasant experience that if you want too much you might end up with nothing in the end. This must have been the case for director Lee Hae-yeong, even though this might be a bit exaggerated. "The Silenced" is after all not your typical horror film you might consider it to be at first. This is in fact a positive thing to note. But with the resolution of the events taking place at the strange girls' school disillusion sets in and a shift in genre takes place, which might have been hinted at beforehand, yet destroys the movie's dark tone, nonetheless. To be precise, there isn't even a real twist since you can easily put together everything going to happen in the movie. You can in fact find appeal in the individual elements of the story, but when it comes to connecting those elements director Lee fails.

Port of Call - Film Screenshot 5

Stilistically, Lee Hae-yeong did strongly deviate from his works like "Like a Virgin" and particularly stands out with his wonderful atmosphere, great pictures and impressive sets, so that the film often reminds you of "Epitaph" or "A Tale of Two Sisters". The school with its Western architecture and many wood elements as well as its dark cozyness certainly is a great setup for some creepy scenes. Still, it needs to be pointed out that the film may feature some horror elements, yet they can never make you jump out of your chair. It's more that the dense atmosphere causes the movie to be mysterious and dark in general. Up until now, those were all points you can compliment the director on.

Port of Call - Film Screenshot 6

Furthermore, the outdoor shots with the lush green colors of nature underline the visual appeal of the film which you can hardly resist. Moreover, the backdrop of the 30s in a Japan occupied Korea gives the film an interesting touch. In fact, this setting is indispensable for the story slowly unfolding. However, Lee can't fully succeed as a screenwriter. The mystery around the events at school is full of suspense. But only until the inevitably resolution hits the screen. This resolution maneuvers the movie into a direction that simply doesn't fit to the rest of the flick. You even may have expected this shift in direction, but this doesn't make the change in tone any more successful. When the horror has left the movie "The Silenced" even gets unintentionally funny at times.

Port of Call - Film Screenshot 7

Next to the actual story around the strange ghost sightings and the odd behavior of the girls the relationship between Joo-ran and Yeon-deok is supposed to be the center of events. Still, what kind of different changes this relationship undergoes and how it develops exactly isn't that clear in the script either. Fortunately, the two actresses Park Bo-yeong ("A Werewolf Boy") and Park So-dam ("The Priests") carry the film on their shoulders very well and breathe life into their characters and their weaknesses and fears. Actually, it's the acting, next to the wonderful pictures, that manages to keep the audience intrigued even towards the end. Also, Eom Ji-won ("The Phone") gives a sophisticated portrait of a villain.

Port of Call - Film Screenshot 8 Port of Call - Film Screenshot 9

Port of Call - Film Screenshot 10

Nevertheless, in the end everything somehow starts to fall apart. At the latest when the last 30 minutes of the movie begin, the film feels just completely different from what we have seen before. As a viewer you can't help but feel cheated. Furthermore, towards the end you also can't decide at times whether you are supposed to laugh about some scenes or not. The fact that the movie gets more melodramatic also doesn't help things. Instead, it even harms in the way that we can't take certain aspects serious anymore, leading to the two protagonists not resonating with us as much as in the beginning. Just the other way around the director intended it to be. To call "The Silenced" a total failure because of that is doing it as little justice as would be praising it to high heaven. At the bottom line this is just a visually stunning and atmospherically dense horror flick which isn't really one anymore towards the end and also loses more and more of its appeal towards the finale. What a shame.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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