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The Guard Post
cast: Jeon Ho-Jin, Lee Young-Hoon, Lee Jeong-Heon, and Cho Hyun-Jae

director: Kong Su-chang

121 minutes (18) 2008
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Cine Asia DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
The Guard Post (or GP506, as it is known in Korea), is Kong Su-chang's second film and it is not dissimilar to R-Point, his debut. This one is set in 2007 on the South Korean border rather than in the Vietnam War, and the cause for the destruction of the platoon is more scientific than supernatural this time, but Kong seems to be pretty much going over the same ground.

The film follows a Korean army team though one night as they arrive at a silent guard post and find that all but one of the soldiers who were stationed there had died violently. The soldier who survived, Yoo (Cho Hyun-Jae), was found standing over corpses with an axe in his hands. He collapses soon afterwards and doesn't regain consciousness for some time. Sergeant Major Seong-gyu Noh (Jeon Ho-Jin) arrives slightly later and takes charge of the investigation, although a Lieutenant Bang is already in charge of the troops. There are little anomalies like that scattered throughout the film, but they don't detract from the overall cohesion of the plot. The main radio on the base, for example, may have been shot up, but surely some of the vehicles carry radios? And nobody had a mobile phone? The Korean border is the most heavily militarised border in the world, so they can't have been all that isolated.

One curious quirk which could have destroyed the film is the way that the crisis unfolds before the viewer. As Noh starts to uncover what happened to the previous occupiers of the guard post, their story is told in flashback. This is interwoven with the events of Noh's night where the process starts to repeat itself all over again as the troops become infected by a disfiguring virus that causes them to become violent and irrational. You may be able to see the potential for confusion. However, the film is paced so slowly that it is easy to keep track of events, even without the occasional insertion of a little 24 style clock at the start of Noh's sequence of events. There is much searching-of-consciences and establishing-of-motives; although many of the characters remain little more than animated uniforms (one notable exception being an excellent performance from Lee Young-Hoon as Corporal Jin-won Kang, one of the doomed original troops). Yoo, for example, is the son of a high-ranking army figure, and this brings a whole slice of honour and reputation into the mix, although the overall impression is of Kong indulging in hand-waving to drag the plot forwards.

Some of this just might be conjuring up an image of Bergman directing 28 Days Later but forget it. The Guard Post commits one irredeemable sin for which it cannot be forgiven: it is not scary. If Kong had edited it so that the action was in chronological order, and had also chopped the running time in half while he was at it, then he would have had an intriguing and gripping film. Instead he has delivered one that, while not exactly dull, feels like a chore to watch more than once.

The extras on the disc include a behind-the-scenes documentary, features on the (impressive) set design, special effects and makeup, the storyboards, and trailers.

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