Korean horror pic goes global for f/x work

Low-profile South Korean production shingle Chungeorahm has hired not one but three of the world’s leading effects companies to boost its bid to break onto the world stage.

Firm has hired L.A.- and San Francisco-based the Orphanage, New Zealand’s Weta Workshop and John Cox’s Creature Workshop in Australia to create digital and visual f/x for $10 million project “The Host,” one of the largest pictures ever put together by a Korean indie shingle.

Effects are overseen by Kevin Rafferty (“Shark Tale” and “Men in Black 2”) and John Cox, who won an Academy Award for “Babe.”

Directed by “Memories of Murder” helmer Bong Joon-ho, monster pic “Host” is a new departure in genre terms for Korean filmmakers. Melodramas, comedies, actioners and war films score well at the local B.O., while Korean horror or high art score in Europe and North America and romancers in Japan. Monsters have yet to rule.

But Bong says he aims to expand the monster genre by adding political and social elements.

Story concerns a carnivorous mutant in Seoul’s Han River that attacks city folk.

Orphanage is providing creature visual effects, Cox’s Workshop will handle animatronics, while Weta is producing computer images of the creature. F/x budget accounts for $4.6 million of the film’s net production costs. Other post-production services are provided locally in Korea.

“Our ambition was to deliver a high-end monster movie that will appeal to audiences worldwide,” said Lewis Kim, head of international at Chungeorahm. “The way to guarantee the quality was to select the best effects elements from around the world.”

Bong’s human cast features several of his regulars, including one of the most recognizable faces in Korean film, Song Kang-ho (“Shiri,” “JSA”). Package is already generating international interest. Earlier this year, Japanese investment group Happinet put up $1.5 million as an equity stake and $3.2 million as license fee for Japanese territory rights. Footage without CGI effects was screened at last month’s American Film Market in Santa Monica. Kim added that moves to attract a Hollywood studio partner will be stepped up in early 2006 after more effects are completed.

Production started June 29 with effects shots wrapping today and other lensing to be completed by mid-December. Delivery is scheduled for May, with Chungeorahm’s release through Korean major Showbox in July.

International rights outside Korea and Japan are handled by Cineclick Asia.

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