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The Red Shoes
cast: Kim Hye-soo, Pak Yeon-ah, Kim Sung-su, and Lee Uhl

director: Kim Yong-gyun

104 minutes (15) 2005
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Tartan Asia Extreme DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
Ooh! Cursed videos, cursed phones and - now - cursed shoes. The Far East has really got a thing about consumer horror. Initially this may seem to be Korean horror-by-numbers, albeit very well made, but The Red Shoes (aka: Bunhongsin) grips as it moves off into an area that is genuinely creepy.

Sun-jae (Kim Hye-soo) is trapped in a lifeless, claustrophobic marriage. Arriving home early one day and finding her husband in bed with another woman proves to be the final straw, so she moves out with her young daughter Tae-soo (the astonishing Pak Yeon-a) to start afresh. They move into a rundown flat (reminiscent of Dark Water), while at the same time she tries to get her oculist's business up and running. She is attempting to renovate a derelict office on a budget, and has hired interior designer In-cheol (vigorously played by the relatively inexperienced Kim Seong-su) who seems to be using the place as a doss-house while he works on it. He, too, has just come out of a relationship, and the two of them are soon drawn towards each other.

There are many flickering and unreliable florescent lights that wash the colour out of this film and hint at things at the far end of corridors in what has become a traditional feature of modern horror. In a nice touch they are used to advance the plot as one of the lights in the flat bursts as Sun-jae attempts to repair it and she has to visit one of her oculist colleagues for treatment. It's so smoothly worked that it doesn't even seem ironic. Then, on the way home, she spots a pair of abandoned red shoes in the subway train and she takes them home. Bad things start to happen to the women who wear the shoes. The shoes poison relationships, for a start, as covetousness moves to theft. Even little Tae-soo is not immune from their power. But more overt supernatural horror happens to the wearers as well, as anyone who has made it through the gruesome opening scenes will already be aware. In another neat twist, when the police interview Sun-jae and In-cheol about the death of their friend, it turns out that the police are already aware of the shoes.

The shoes provide most of the on-screen colour, although it is more of a pastel pink than a bright patent red. Powell and Pressburger this is not. It turns out that the shoes did once belong to a dancer, although how someone could dance safely and effectively while wearing them remains one of the film's few stumbling points. Another flaw is the end, which seems to drag out forever and still manages to leave an unanswered plot query. It would be unfair to comment much further as this is a very fine chiller and doesn't deserve too many spoilers unrolled before it. There is another subplot that I've had to avoid discussing entirely because of this. It's one of these things that are obvious once it's been pointed out, but the gradual dawning of realisation is part of the viewing pleasure.

There is a commentary option from the director and cinematographer, and other extras include a documentary about the making of the film which has good interviews with the two main leads, a feature about the visual effects (mostly concerning the 'colourisation' process), and the original trailer.
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