What a strange, twisted and thoroughly intricate film this is. Well, at least the plethora of minor details and trivial plot points would have me believe, anyway. On the outside it is a simple slasher film – and a very good one at that – but this facet merely occupies the film’s second act, as does the lion’s share of the gore and violence.
But it is much more than that. It’s a psychological thriller with clear dramatic elements as well as a not-so-subtle look at class consciousness in modern Korea. This would either sound impressive or foolishly impractical for a horror film such as this, and indeed when the film falters it is in it’s attempts to meld the more social and intellectual aspects into the fray. But overall it’s a well-executed and nasty little film with lots of positive things going for it.
Bloody Reunion surrounds a group of students who, having grown up to respectable young adults, arrange to meet at the house of their former teacher. This teacher, as we see in a flashback right away, had a troubled pregnancy and birthed a horribly disfigured child. Due to complications of the birth (I think) and a degenerative disease, the teacher is now wheelchair bound and in need of constant care.
Thus begins the bulk of the film, where the reunion occurs and, while night falls and inebriation sets in, mysteries and past horrors rear their ugly head. It seems that the mild-mannered and pleasant teacher has had an effect on all the students, and one by one they confront her and re-open wounds which have scarred them for life. At this same point, the students begin to disappear as someone or something horrible has returned with them to exact a bloody and violent revenge.
And if you think that is all that is going on, you have no idea.
We are given three distinct acts in the film, separated not only by plot, but lighting, cinematography and score as well. After the introduction where we quickly learn of the teacher and her deformed child, the students arrive at the house in the cove with good spirits and happy-go-lucky attitudes. Here the sun is high, bright whites and yellows abound, white sheets flap elegantly in the sea breeze, all is well and everyone is cheerful and pleased to re-unite. We have zoom shots and quick cuts to give us the impression of haphazardness, the feeling of a new group coming together. As time goes on, the shots are stable and showing the group as a unit, until a point when things began to unravel. This is a dinner party scene, and it is crucial to the whole film.
As the afternoon wears on and night approaches, a darkness descends, literally and figuratively, and the second act is swathed in the deep blues and blacks of night. The score becomes more apparent here, with deep, low chords and gone are the happy tunes we hear upon first meeting the group. It is here that we learn of the teacher’s propensity to berate the poor students and put them down at every turn – a thread no doubt thrown in to comment on social and economic disparity in Korea, and how the upper classes view and treat the lower.
It is this middle section that things really pick up, and the slasher components appear. The film sticks pretty soundly to the normal conventions of the sub-genre, much to my delight. If you cut out this section, the film is a damn fine slasher film on its own, and when it is on, it really is on. For my money, it is the best slasher I have seen in a very long time, even though it does (predictably) throw in some obligatory torture scenes. This is the post-Hostel horror world, I suppose.
I’ll leave out the much of the details of the last third for the sake of spoilers, but suffice to say it will make or break your experience of Blood Reunion. Unfortunately for me, it simply seemed to complicate earlier plotlines, and brought my expectations of a sound and unique slasher to a grinding halt. I’ll leave the rest up to you to decide.
Upon reflection, there are some other items worthy of note. The beach, for instance, bookends the first act, and becomes a significant location in the film. It’s where we first learn of the teacher’s pregnancy complications and are introduced to the first shots of blood. It is also, later on, relevant to the commencement of the massacre. And how to read into the teacher’s illness? Perhaps she is silently paying the price for ruining the student’s lives by slowly and painfully losing her own. And finally, what has happened to the deformed child? Well…maybe I should let you experience that much yourself.
While all this appears to have swayed me towards a resounding positive review, sadly, the aspects I had mentioned earlier bog down and complicate an otherwise effective horror film. It looks great, in a grainy, washed-out 70’s type of way, and the gore is spot-on. But some things simply don’t make a whole lot of sense in the end.
The difficulty one has in reviewing a film such as this is how much to give away, while still informing the reader enough to empower them to decide whether or not they would like to watch it themselves. I’ll make it easy and say definitely give it a go. Some of you, readers, will perhaps love it, and some will no doubt hate it. It’s all in your appreciation of the details, but wouldn’t it be worse to pass on a film you might love?