×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

H

A coolly lensed, often visually grisly stab at the serial-killer genre, "H" is a pic where many of the pieces are in place apart from the script. Recalling a host of better movies from the U.S. to Japan, this curate's egg of a movie boasts a few impressive moments, but otherwise falls short of its target.

With:
With: Yeom Jeong-ah, Ji Jin-heui, Jo Seung-woo, Seong Ji-ru, Kim Seon-gyeong, Kim In-gweon, Kim Bu-seon, Min Yung-gi.

A coolly lensed, often visually grisly stab at the serial-killer genre, “H” is a pic where many of the pieces are in place apart from the script. Recalling a host of better movies from the U.S. to Japan, and aspiring to the same clammy dread that marked local classic “Tell Me Something” (1999), this curate’s egg of a movie boasts a few impressive moments, but otherwise falls short of its target. Film crashed and burned on Korean release late last December, but could have a modest ancillary career among hardcore Asian psychothriller buffs.

On a rainy night at a Busan garbage dump, a woman’s body is found mutilated, her dead baby torn from her womb. Four days later, another young femme is garroted and eviscerated in a public bus. The cops, led by ace criminal profiler Kim Mi-yeon (Yeom Jeong-ah) and joined by loose-cannon detective Kang (Ji Jin-heui), notice the crimes replicate those of serial killer Shin Hyeon (Jo Seung-woo). The only problem is that Shin is on death row, after handing himself in for the murder of six women 10 months ago.

While Kim & Co. try to work out whether Shin hired or inspired a copycat killer, a suspect (Kim In-gweon) is shot dead by Kang after slicing up a lesbian at a nightclub, again mimicking an earlier murder by Shin. Though they manage to pin the earlier killings on the dead suspect, who was in the same prison as Shin, the cops realize that still leaves three more crimes waiting to be duplicated.

The trail leads to Shin’s uncooperative female shrink, Chu Gyeong-suk (Kim Seon-gyeong), one of whose patients (Min Yung-gi) becomes the next suspect. In pic’s one genuinely scary sequence, Kim and Kang give chase on a night they expect the next murder to take place, but arrive too late. Also, there’s still the mystery of how Shin is involved and why the killings are being done.

The solution, which explains the film’s one-letter moniker, is hardly original and partly recalls a recent Japanese psychothriller; but that wouldn’t have mattered if the screenplay, co-written by debuting helmer Lee Jeong-hyeok, had been more convincingly worked out. Pic suffers from unlikely leaps of police logic and some continuity problems that are out of kilter with the cool, procedural style. Some of these may be explained by rumored last-minute cutting, in which 17 minutes seems to have disappeared from the running time.

Same sense of mimicking but not equaling better pictures also afflicts the paint-by-numbers dialogue, especially when explaining the dodgy psychological background to the murders. Prison scenes, too, between the cops and young Shin strain for a feeling of Lecter-like dread, and aren’t helped by a miscast Jo as the psycho.

On a tech level, pic’s score often works against the atmospheric lensing by veteran Aussie d.p. Peter Gray.

Performances, ranging from Yeom’s icily focused lead cop to Ji’s combustible detective, don’t engage at an emotional level. (Yeom was more effective in her small but crucial role in “Tell Me Something.”) Pic never drags, and is always watchable in a no-brainer way, but could have been far better.

H

South Korea / market

Production: An A Line release of a KTB Entertainment presentation of a b.o.m. production. (International sales: Cineclick, Seoul.) Produced by Oh Jeong-weon. Executive producer, Gweon Jae-ryun. Co-producer, Ryu Jin-ok. Directed by Lee Jong-hyeok. Screenplay, Lee, Kim Hyeok-jae, Oh Seung-uk.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Peter Gray, Choi Jin-yeong; editor, Ham Seong-weon; music, Jo Seong-woo, Shim Hyeon-jeong, Choi Yong-rak, Jeong Se-rin; music director, Jo; art director, Lee Jong-pil; costumes, Kang Ji-hyang; sound (Dolby Digital), Im Dong-seok; assistant director, Kim Ji-yeob. Reviewed on videocassette, London, June 8, 2003. (In Cannes Film Festival -- market; also in Seattle Film Festival.) Running time: 106 MIN.

With: With: Yeom Jeong-ah, Ji Jin-heui, Jo Seung-woo, Seong Ji-ru, Kim Seon-gyeong, Kim In-gweon, Kim Bu-seon, Min Yung-gi.

More Film

  • 'How to Train Your Dragon: The

    'How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' to Bow in China on March 1

    “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” will swoop into Chinese theaters on March 1, its Beijing-based promotion company He Song confirmed to Variety on Wednesday. The date puts its China release a week after its Feb. 22 debut in the U.S. and also pits it against “Green Book,” which has scored a China release [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: Beyond 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 2018 Was a Record Sync Year for Queen

    As “Bohemian Rhapsody” approaches a landmark $800 million at the global box office, another Queen milestone quietly took place in 2018. With appearances in nationwide campaigns for Amazon, Ram Trucks, Google, Peloton, Silk Almondmilk and many more, Queen’s music was licensed by more blue-chip brands than any other calendar year. And in the first few [...]

  • Sundance Film Festival Placeholder

    A Changing Film Market Raises the Pressure for Sundance Indies to Succeed (Column)

    Regretfully, I never go to the Sundance Film Festival anymore because I need to mind the editorial store back home, knowing that our crack team of reporters and critics will be filing great scoops and reviews while freezing their butts off (sorry!). I have lots of fond memories from the days when I frequented Park [...]

  • Jimmy Kimmel Oscars

    Will the Oscars Be a Hot Mess Without a Host?

    Who will host this year’s Oscars? With one month left until the telecast on Feb. 24, there’s still no definitive answer. Insiders tell Variety that the ceremony will likely buck the tradition of having a master of ceremonies. Instead, organizers have chosen to patch together a host-less show. That could mean a lot of airtime [...]

  • 2018 Sundance Film Festival - Egyptian

    Sundance Preview: Expect Political Moments and Few Costly Deals at 2019 Festival

    Zac Efron underwent a grueling physical transformation to play serial killer Ted Bundy in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” a drama premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this week. “I lost 13 pounds,” Efron says. To prepare for the biographical role, he rode a stationary bike for an hour in the mornings while binge-watching [...]

  • Mindy Kaling photographed by Victoria Stevens

    Mindy Kaling Created Her Own Opportunities (and Doesn't Plan on Stopping)

    Over the course of two hit sitcoms, a couple of best-selling books and some scene-stealing turns in Hollywood blockbusters such as “Ocean’s 8” and “Inside Out,” Mindy Kaling has cultivated an image as a kinder, gentler and more relatable star than most. On Instagram or Twitter, where she routinely shares parenting anecdotes and restaurant recommendations, [...]

  • Jimi Hendrix sound check Monterey Pop

    Film Constellation Adds ‘Show Me the Picture’ to Berlin Market Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    London-based sales and financing house Film Constellation has added Alfred George Bailey’s feature documentary “Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall” to its Berlin market slate, ahead of the film’s SXSW premiere. Submarine Entertainment is handling distribution in North America. The film charts the life of American photographer James Joseph Marshall, whose work [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content