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The Doll Master (DVD)

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Genre: Drama / Suitable for 18 years and over / Director: Yong-Ki Jeong / Actors: Yu-Mi Kim, Eun-Kyeong Lim, Hyeong-Tak Shim, Ji-Yeong Ok, Hyeong-Jun Lim ... / DVD released 2005-06-20 at Optimum Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL, Widescreen

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      18.08.2008 13:31
      Very helpful



      A silly Korean horror

      Five young people have been invited to spend a weekend at an art gallery in the middle of nowhere, with the aim of having their faces turned into one of the many dolls that the gallery hosts. On arrival, it is soon clear that something strange is going on - and it is not just the weird and wonderful collection of dolls that are peppered all around the house. One of the girls, Yeung-ha, has a doll that she believes is a real person; so much so that when it is broken, she tries to kill another of the guests. And there is a strange girl wondering about the grounds who only appears when Hae-mi is around. Then the killings begin. What is going on? And will any of them escape alive?

      There is a rather random cast of actors that play the roles in the film, none of which are particularly brilliant. Yu-mi Kim who plays Hae-mi probably has the most time on-screen, and is the most likeable and seemingly balanced character. She has to do a lot of screaming and looking terrified, which she does well on the whole, although I did get a bit sick of her towards the end. Ji-young Ok, who plays Yeung-ha, is good as the rather insular and frankly slightly deranged girl who loves her doll more than anyone else - she is at least convincing, if a little weird.

      The rest of the characters are irritating. There is the annoying high school girl, who giggles and pouts her way through the film until she is satisfyingly finished off. Then there is the out-going photographer who claims he has links to model agencies that can make the girls rich. Another plays a good-looking model who obviously has more to him than meets the eye. And finally, there is the director of the gallery who is, frankly, pointless, and the doll-maker herself, the frankly bewildering Mrs Im. As so often happens in this sort of film, I found it hard to feel much sympathy for any of the characters, no matter what side they were on, and as such, lost interest about half way into the film.

      I could have put all that aside, however, if the plot had been a good one. It wasn't. At the beginning of the film, we are told that many years before, a man made a figure of his loved one into a doll and that doll fell in love with her owner, although he wasn't in the slightest bit interested in her (nor do I think he knew that she had developed feelings for him - strange that!). Then his loved one dies horribly and he is suspected of her death, after which he is beaten to death by locals. Eventually, we find out that this has something to do with the invites to the gallery. There is also another sub-plot, in that a doll that Hae-mi used to have but threw away has managed to come back to life and wants to return to Hae-mi. Now, I like a good ghost story and there is no doubt that the Koreans have made some great films around this topic, but this one falls way too short on the believability scale - there are just too many plot-holes and general silliness to make it a good film.

      For a film that isn't all that old, the special effects aren't very good. Obviously, a lot of the film is about dolls that come alive, and so they would not be expected to look terribly realistic. However, the humans who are maimed and mangled into all sorts of weird and wonderful positions don't look particularly convincing either. And there is a scene where one of the dolls scoops out a part of Hae-mi's chest, yet somehow doesn't manage to rip her shirt - go figure! It is an incredibly gory film nevertheless, and certainly not one that I would feel comfortable letting anyone under 15 watch (the guidance rating is 18). Unfortunately, I think it is that 15-18 age group that this film would most appeal to - it is very cartoon book-like in its violence - and so the target audience for this film is straight away limited.

      Being fairly optimistic, I kept watching the film until the end in the hope that it would suddenly make sense. Certainly up to that point, it was watchable - mainly because I wasn't sure what was going to happen next - and it is very beautifully filmed. Unfortunately, the ending was weak and left me with more questions than I had had before. There were just too many coincidences and weird happenings anyway, and while I have a reasonable imagination, it was just too much for me and left me feeling bewildered and mildly annoyed that I had wasted my time on watching the film.

      There are a lot of good Korean horror/ghost films out there. This is not one of them. The whole thing felt thrown together in a hurry; and the crap plot and weak acting didn't help matters. If you have a penchant for killer dolls (I know some people do!), then you might want to see this. If not, steer clear. You would be better off watching the Whispering Corridors series, which, although also a bit silly, is much better thought out than this. Not recommended.

      The DVD is available from play.com for £4.99.

      Classification: 18

      Running time: 90 minutes


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