Our Town

Not one, but two serial killers stalk the streets of the ironically titled "Our Town."

With: Oh Man-seok, Lee Seon-gyun, Ryu Deok-hwan, Park Myeong-shin, Jeong Hye-weon, Lee Mu-saeng, Yukie Mori, Jeong In-gi, Lee Gab-seon.

Not one, but two serial killers stalk the streets of the ironically titled “Our Town,” a twisted little genre-bender in which the danse macabre plays out as much between the sickos as with the cop hunting them down. More psychological than procedural, and more of a whydunit than a whodunit, this emotionally claustrophobic first feature by helmer Jeong Gil-yeong did poorly on local release late last year but is definitely worth a look-see by Asiaphile fest scouts and specialist ancillary labels.

Deliberately set in Anytown, South Korea, pic opens as it means to continue — with the discovery of the a young woman’s lacerated body strung up on a school playing field. It’s the fourth such murder in as many months, and the police aren’t making any headway.

The cop on the case, Jae-shin (Lee Seon-gyun), is a childhood friend of penniless, heavy-drinking writer Gyeong-ju (Oh Man-seok), who’s working on a novel based on the murders. Early reels, showing Gyeong-ju’s fantasies (real or imagined), play with the audience’s perceptions and set him up as the prime suspect, especially when he strangles his landlady in a sudden rage and strings up her body in the town’s park. However, Jae-shin suspects this latest abomination may be a copycat murder.

Popular on Variety

Story develops an even more unsettling level as Gyeong-ju is seemingly recognized by young, baby-faced convenience-store owner Hyo-i (Ryu Deok-hwan), who text-messages him, “Teacher, it was you, wasn’t it?” Audience already knows Hyo-i is seriously out to lunch, as the angelic-looking loner has just killed and eaten his adored pet dog.

Pic keeps auds in suspense not only about which of the two is responsible for the serial murders, but about the connection between the men. Film’s midsection requires considerable concentration, as flashbacks to the protags’ youth — shown in heavily saturated colors — slowly reveal a complex story involving a young woman (Jeong Hye-weon) and Hyo-i’s parents, as more murders continue in the present day. The surprising solution is only the prelude to a final half-hour that involves all three protags and gets very grim indeed.

Movie’s fascination lies not only in the wheels-within-wheels story, but also in the way helmer Jeong makes an implausible plot seem logical within its own universe. By keeping the focus tight on a small number of players, Jeong constructs a highly contained world in which the characters’ actions and feelings assume center stage. It’s pure cinematic sleight-of-hand, but it largely works due to the sustained intensity of the performances.

Weaker stomachs may be alienated by the copious blood-letting. But genre fans — especially of hardcore Korean crimers — will stay on board. Technical package is not as slick as many from the peninsula but actually gains more intensity as a result, and is never less than pro.

Our Town

South Korea

Production: A CJ Entertainment/Cinema Service release of an iM pictures presentation of an Object Films, Motive Cinema production. (International sales: CJ, Seoul.) Produced by Min In-gi. Directed by Jeong Gil-yeong. Screenplay, Mo Hong-jin; adaptation, Kim Yu-min. Jeong.

Crew: Camera (color), Lee Gang-min; editors, Choi Jae-geun, Eom Jin-hwa; music, Jeong Jae-hwan; art director, Kim Hye-jin; costume designer, Choi Sae-mi; sound (Dolby Digital), Seon Hun; action choreographer, Kim Yeong-gyu; visual effects supervisor, Kim Tae-hun; assistant directors, Kim Jin-seon, Cha Dae-seob. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (market), Feb. 9, 2008. Running time: 112 MIN.

Cast: With: Oh Man-seok, Lee Seon-gyun, Ryu Deok-hwan, Park Myeong-shin, Jeong Hye-weon, Lee Mu-saeng, Yukie Mori, Jeong In-gi, Lee Gab-seon.

More Scene

  • 2018 Sundance Film Festival - Egyptian

    Sundance 2020: The Ultimate Party Guide

    Heading to Park City? From intimate dinners and cocktail parties to late night bashes (that end just in time to head to brunch), there’s plenty to keep this year’s film festival attendees out of the cold between screenings. Here is Variety’s ultimate party guide for Sundance 2020:  Thursday, Jan. 23 “Summertime” Premiere Party Lyft Lounge, 8-11 [...]


    Jenna Andrews Hosts Zhavia Ward, Lennon Stella at Jed Foundation Fundraiser

    Jenna Andrews, the Canadian singer-songwriter, record producer and executive, hosted a pre-Grammy event in partnership with The Jed Foundation at Alice and Olivia in West Hollywood on Tuesday.  The non-profit Jed is dedicated to protecting emotional health and preventing suicide. The foundation has partnered with high schools and colleges in order to “strengthen mental health, [...]

  • Coldplay - Chris Martin

    Grammys 2020: The Ultimate Party Guide

    Let the music play, indeed. The Grammys are just days away and dozens of parties are happening every night this week leading up to the big day, Sunday, Jan. 26. And the partying continues with several bashes following the ceremony. (All events listed are by invitation only unless marked otherwise; this list is being updated [...]

  • Jared Harris arrives at the 26th

    No, Jared Harris is Not Playing Doctor Octopus in Marvel's 'Morbius'

    The first-ever trailer for Marvel and Sony’s next Spider-man spinoff “Morbius” left comic book fans reeling with theories. While the plight of the main character, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) – a scientist dying of a rare blood disease who accidentally turns himself into a vampire – seemed ripped right out of the comics, the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content