Think “Full Metal Jacket” restaged as an Asian ghost movie, and you’ll be halfway to “R-Point,” a fresh spin on the Korean horror genre after a summer which saw the usual haunted-schoolgirl template reach burnout. Vietnam War-set hokum about a band of South Korean soldiers spooked and sliced in a remote jungle setting drew a healthy 2 million admissions in early fall on the back of heavy promo, and looks likely to haunt Western genre distribs’ catalogs as well.
In summer 1972, strange radio transmissions are received from soldiers of Battalion 53 — soldiers who were thought to be dead six months earlier. Traumatized Choi Tae-in (Gam Woo-seong, commanding), still recovering in the hospital from a battle in which he was the only survivor, is sent with a platoon of hicks, nuts and psychos to investigate the source of the radio signals, a Bermuda Triangle-like area known as R-Point.
Supposedly based on a true story — which is not, in fact, the case — pic follows the motley group for five days as they’re shot at by mysteriously invisible Viet Cong, hole up in a decaying mansion, and slowly realize the mansion is haunted by people massacred by Chinese 100 years earlier. One by one, members of the group go down.
Frosh helmer Gong Su-chang certainly has the scripting background for such material: His earlier pics include Vietnam war drama “White Badge,” the Korean re-make of “The Ring” and serial-killer psychodrama “Tell Me Something.” Thoroughly generic story lacks any real complexity or surprising pay-off, but is highly focused and helmed in a crisp style, with only a slight flabbiness in its mid-section.
Climactic scenes inside the mansion have an emotional intensity that shows the influence of producer Jang Yun-hyeon, who also helmed “Tell Me Something.”
Cambodian locations double OK for Vietnam, and the sprawling mansion — an abandoned French colonial building from the 1920s — makes an atmospheric extra character in the story. (Interiors were later seamlessly recreated in a studio back home for reshoots.) Visual effects are sparingly used but fine. Title, never explained, comes from a novel by Hwang Suk-yeong (“A Tower”), that Gong admired.