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Choyonghan kajok (2000)

The Quiet Family

Directed by:

Kim Ji-woon

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 99 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: Korea (South)

Together with her parents (Park In-hwan, Na Moon-hee), her older brother and sister (Sang Kang-ho, Lee Yun-seong) and her uncle (Choi Min-sik), seventeen-year old Kang Mi-na (Ko Ho-kyung) moves from downtown Seoul to a mountainous country region to open the ‘Misty Lodge’ – but their dream of making a killing from the passing trade in hikers comes true not quite as expected when their very first guest dies overnight in mysterious circumstances. Determined that their new business should not be ruined, the family secretly buries the body in the nearby woods, only to find that their next two guests also commit suicide – and soon it seems that almost anyone who comes to visit ends up dead. With the local police chief sniffing about, a contract killer due to arrive, and corpses that just will not stay long buried, this is one family that has a lot of trouble keeping its skeletons in its closet.

Like hotelier Norman Bates and his beloved mother in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, like the three generations of slaughterhouse workers in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or like the redneck residents of Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses, the Kangs fall into a long tradition of cinematic families that have to slay together to stay together – except that the Kangs’ predicament arises not so much out of murderous malice as mischance and miscommunication, so that Kim Ji-woon’s ‘The Quiet Family’ remains throughout a black farce that merely toys with the tropes of horror. Not that, amidst all the wry absurdity, more serious issues are kept entirely at bay – for lurking not so very far beneath the surface of ‘The Quiet Family’ is a political satire of a country where the Cold War mindset of reticence and paranoia has never gone away, where strangers are both welcomed and viewed with suspicion, and where, no matter how much one might like to forget them, the bodies of the recently fallen continue to surface. It comes as little surprise to learn that Misty Inn has been built upon a former military installation, or that North Korean spies are believed to have infiltrated the area (news reports of which regularly punctuate the film) – for the Kangs embody all the contradictory hopes and anxieties of a Korea that has, at least technically, been at war with the North for over fifty years.

It is the curse of Kim Ji-woon that if his films gain recognition at all outside his native Korea, it is only through imitation. For his wrestling comedy ‘The Foul King’ (2000), a huge box-office success at home (and a very funny movie), is virtually unknown abroad – while his superb ghost story A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) is doomed to be overshadowed in the West by the English-language remake forthcoming from Dreamworks. Similarly ‘The Quiet Family’, which was Kim Ji-woon’s feature debut, is better known for its outrageous reimagining by Takashi Miike as ‘The Happiness of the Katakuris’ (2001). Yet if ‘The Quiet Family’ lacks the wild claymation prologue and genre-busting song-and-dance numbers of this Japanese retread, it is still far less obvious (and less repetitive) than Miike’s one-joke film, while every bit as surreal. With Kim Ji-woon’s trademark attention to production detail, and performances that find just the right balance between realism and caricature, ‘The Quiet Family’ is an amiably strange film for anyone who likes their humour very, very dark.

It's Got: A family-run lodge with a high bodycount (so high, in fact, that the family quickly loses count); exquisite set design and cinematography; hilarious performances; a stonkingly good soundtrack.

It Needs: Not to be entirely overshadowed by Takashi Miikes more outrageous (but to my mind inferior) remake The Happiness of the Katakuris.

DVD Extras Two-disc edition. Disc One: Choice of audio (original Korean in 2.0 or 5.1/English dub in 2.0 or 5.1/Cantonese dub); choice of English or Chinese subtitles; full audio commentary with writer/director Kim Ji-woon and actor Song Kang-ho, with a lot of needless plot paraphrasing and Beavis and Butthead-style sniggering, plus the revelation that Kim Ji-woon modelled the familys mother on his own, and involved himself closely in details of costume and production design. Disc Two: Trailer; a selection of interviews (with subtitles in annoyingly incoherent English) - Kim Ji-woon (8min), actors Choi Min-sik (10min), Song Kang-ho (10min), Ko Ho-kyung/Lee Yun-seong (10min); making-of (6min), comprising interviews with Kim Ji-woon and production designer Oh Sang-man about the design of the lodge; Coming Out (45min), a not particularly funny short mockumentary that uses vampirism as a (rather laboured) allegory for homosexuality; music video 1 (Ubangi Stomp by the Stray Cats); music video 2 (Tres Deliquentes by Delinquent Habits); storyboard comparisons (4min); original soundtrack (5min) interview with music designer Cho Yong-wook explaining his choice of music for the films soundtrack. Version reviewed: The Quiet Family (Tai Seng Entertainment) DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Alternatives:

Motel Hell, Psycho, Save the Green Planet, Shallow Grave, The Happiness of the Katakuris, The Trouble With Harry

Summary

This Hitchcockean farce puts the dead in deadpan.

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