×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Missing

"Missing" stands out for its simplicity and lack of exaggeration, like a glass of pure water.

With:
With: Mun Seong-geun, Chu Ja-hyeon, Jeon Se-hong, Oh Seong-su, Nam Mun-cheol, Hwang Eun-jeong, Son Geon-woo, Lee Bong-gu, Son Yeong-sun.

Amid all the super-gore and heavy atmospherics of contempo horror pics, “Missing” stands out for its simplicity and lack of exaggeration, like a glass of pure water — and no less bracing. Straightforward yarn of a taciturn farmer who kidnaps, rapes and murders young women, with no sense of remorse, is closer to South Korean dramas such as Bong Joon-ho’s “Memories of Murder” and “Mother” in its depiction of the dark areas of the Korean psyche beneath normal country life; a fine perf by noted actor Mun Seong-geun also elevates this above pure genre fare. Free-thinking fests should take a look.

Helmer Kim Seong-hong has a solid commercial record, starting as writer of the popular “Two Cops” series and then for thrillers like “The Trap” and “Say Yes.” But “Missing” — based on a real-life case that took place in summer 2007 — is in a different league altogether. Shot for only $1.3 million, the film did moderate biz locally in its March release.

Spoiled Seoul-ite Kang Hyeon-ah (former beauty queen Jeon Se-hong) and her film director b.f., Hong (Son Geon-woo), stay at a small country retreat run by poultry farmer Jang Pan-gon (Mun), who lives with his sick mom and has a rep in town for being a quiet, devoted guy. Without much ado, Pan-gon strangles Hong, splits his skull with a shovel, then drugs and cages Hyeon-ah in a cellar.

Pan-gon first keeps her in the dark for days, then hoses her down and buys her a silver negligee before himself dressing up, crooning a song and raping her.

Ten days later, Hyeon-ah’s elder sister, the very together Hyeon-jeong (Chu Ja-hyeon), arrives looking for her sibling. A local goodtime girl (Hwang Eun-jeong) reports seeing her at Pan-gon’s place, but a visit there with the police turns up nothing. Later, however, Pan-gon lures Hyeon-jeong back to his farm on a phony excuse.

With slight nods to “The Collector” and “Psycho,” but using the simplest means, the film conjures and sustains tension over the question of whether Pan-gon will get away with his crimes and whether Hyeon-jeong will live to tell the tale. Most of the movie is set in broad daylight, in the heat of summer, but a sense of threat is ever present beneath the pic’s matter-of-fact approach.

Mun turns a potentially cliched role into a tour de force of minimal acting. As the elder sister who just won’t give up, Chu makes a determined femme lead sans genre heroics.

Missing

South Korea

Production: A Cinergy release of a Haldong Sajin, Team Works production. (International sales: Showbox/Mediaplex, Seoul.) Produced by Jo Seon-muk. Executive producer, Lee Yeong-seon. Directed by Kim Seong-hong. Screenplay, Kim Yeong-ok.

Crew: Camera (color), Jeong Han-cheol; editor, Gyeong Min-ho; music, Angelo Lee; art director, Jo Yun-ah; costume designer, Jeong Su-yeon; sound (Dolby Digital), Han Myeong-hwan; special effects, Yun Yeo-jin; action director, Kim Cheol-jun. Reviewed at PiFan (World Fantastic Cinema), Bucheon, South Korea, July 22, 2009. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: With: Mun Seong-geun, Chu Ja-hyeon, Jeon Se-hong, Oh Seong-su, Nam Mun-cheol, Hwang Eun-jeong, Son Geon-woo, Lee Bong-gu, Son Yeong-sun.

More Film

  • Nicole Holofcener: 'Can You Ever Forgive

    Nicole Holofcener: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' Director Was Cheated Out of an Oscar Nomination

    “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” screenwriter Nicole Holofcener offered a blunt assessment of the lack of Academy Awards recognition for director Marielle Heller, and women directors everywhere. “I feel Marielle was cheated and I feel badly about that,” Holofcener said backstage after winning a Spirit Award for screenplay with Jeff Whitty. Holofcener was originally attached [...]

  • Stephan James as Fonny and Brian

    2019 Indie Spirit Awards Winners: Complete List

    The 2019 Independent Spirit Awards took place on a beach in Santa Monica, Calif., with Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” taking the top prize for best feature along with best director for Jenkins. Ethan Hawke and Glenn Close took the prizes for best male lead and best female lead, respectively. Bo Burnham took [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Hated It! How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Gripe About the Oscars

    Watching the Academy Awards telecast, then grousing about it the next day, has become a hipster parlor game — it’s what the Complete Oscar Experience now is. The complaints are legion, and we all know what they are, because we’ve all made them. The show was too long. The host bombed. His or her opening [...]

  • Boots Riley arrives at the 34th

    Boots Riley: Spike Lee Yelled at Me After 'BlacKkKlansman' Criticism, But We're Good Now

    “Sorry to Bother You” director and musician Boots Riley, who wrote a scathing criticism of Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” for its positive representation of law enforcement, said that he and the “Do the Right Thing” auteur are good now. But it took some time (and drama) to get there. Last year, Riley called Lee’s Oscar-nominated “BlacKkKlansman” [...]

  • Dr. Donald Shirley (Mahershala Ali, right)

    Read Variety's 1957 Review of 'Green Book' Pianist Don Shirley

    “Green Book” viewers who are not totally versed in the ways of ’50s and ’60s jazz may come away from the heavily Oscar-nominated movie wondering just how well known and respected the film’s central musical figure, Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali), really was in his heyday. The answer: revered enough to have picked up [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content