When the Mt. Jang cave is broken into by a couple of lethal wrongdoers, a ominous presence is released onto the mountainside, a malevolence that can precisely mimic voices of loved ones to lure victims to their ultimate doom. A young family, hanging on to a last bit of unnerving hope, moves into a house on the surrounding area, seeking to reverse the impossible by rejuvenating their semi-catatonic grandmother whom perhaps knows the last whereabouts of their missing boy from five years ago, but what the family encounters on the mountainside is a harmful specter hellbent on using the body of a obsessive and loyal shaman and his innocent, preschooler daughter to obtain more souls for a fearful urban legend, the Jangsan Tiger.
Based off the South Korean folklore involving the Jangsan Tiger, a man-eating beast that lives and hunts on the Jangsan Mountains and can imitate a woman’s screams or the sound of running water to lure people in, “Hide and Seek” director Huh Jung helms “The Mimic,” his sophomore 2017 fantasy thriller that explores a highly entertaining, opt-ed version of the urban legend. Originally titled “Jang-san-beom” in South Korean, Huh also pens the script catered to blend fantasy with delusional, family-destroying hope. Even though hope is more than usually a positive aspect in all dire situations, Huh manipulates hope by molding it as an entrapment, leading friends and family members down a path to a false reality, psychological impairments, and, ultimately, to a melancholic demise.
“The Mimic” stars “A Tale of Two Sisters'” Yum Jung-Ah as a grieving mother, Hee-yeon, looking for answers to the mystery of her son’s disappearance while in the care of her grandmother. Jung-ah tackles a role that’s compiled with emotional affliction, fear, and chimera to which the Seoul born actress challenges herself to depict each complication as one connective element. Park Hyuk-kwon plays her husband, whom is struggling to cope with his wife sadness and inadequacy to let go of the past. Together, Jung-ah and Hyuk-Kwon’s character dynamics strive to unearth deep-rooted, therapeutical hurdles and they accomplish just that with the help of influential costars, especially in the 9-year-old actress Shin Rin-Ah. The sweet, fresh face of Rin-Ah Shin becomes the ultimate deception, a suspected sheep in wolf skin, that this pint-sized bundle of cuteness could be the family’s undoing. The cast rounds out with Heo Jin, Bang Yu-seol, and Lee Jun-hyeok.
Now while “The Mimic,” not to be titularly confused with Guillermo del Toro’s “Mimic,” is laced with unsettling camera angles and bottom-popping jump scares, the embodied Jangsan Tiger regrettably places the Huh Jung one notch lower on the proverbial grade scale. The shaman’s body, a rather thick individual, has been possessed by the Jangsan Tiger that’s been depicted covered with stringy white coat, long arms and legs like a sloth, a tiger-like maxilla and jowl on a human-esque face, and with cold, blank eyes. Instead, the Jangsan Tiger remains in human form throughout with subtle changes that reference the tiger; for example, the horizontal white fur on each side of the shaman’s rather gnarly face. Transformation effects just don’t do the antagonist justice and, frankly, should have kept the shaman a wretched shell of himself, spawning through mirror gateways, ever reaching to touch the next soul to digest, but when Hee-yeon and her husband enter the labyrinth Mr. Jang cave system, the shaman is a rabid dog, a ravenous trickster, but not as ferocious as the description might sound.
Arriving on Digital & Blu-ray June 12, Well Go USA Entertainment distributes “The Mimic” onto an unrated, 1080p Blu-ray presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, and the image suffers no compression issues, has a fine palette that more-or-less of a blue or yellow hue, and has a leveled up bitrate. The 100 minute runtime feature has a Korean 5.1 surround sound DTS-HD Master Audio that’s effective with the Jangsan’s imitation lures. The waterfall rain and echoing animal ambient tracks are spot on with range and depth. Optional English subtitles are available and, considering the film’s duration, are considerable accurate and timely, but I did manage to catch one error where “leaves” was typed instead of “lives” where appropriate in the context of the sentence. Extras are slim with a cursory making of featurette and the film’s original trailer. “The Mimic” revels in South Korean lore, even if it’s a variation of, and the menacing atmospheric and audio cues exhibit a precision that’s a testament to director Huh Jung’s psychological spook show filmmaking, but the build up behind the mysterious small girl, the bricked cave, and the alluring voices are quickly summed up with meretricious humanoid value instead of a mystical and enchanting beast.
Enthralled from last week’s viewing of Richard Griffin’s The Disco Exorcist (see review here) that I checked into the player another Griffin film entitled Murder University from 2012. A fairly generic titled college slasher with semi-comedic values that tries to blend in with similar genre slashers such as Urban Legend, House on Sorority Row, Black Christmas, or Sorority House Massacre. Comedy elements separate Murder University from the rest as well as Murder University doesn’t set itself in the present time of which the setting takes place. I’ll dissect Griffin’s film the best I can because my response post viewing teeters back and forth of a thumbs up for pratical effects and homage or thumbs down for storyline and dialogue.
Greensboro University has a notorious reputation for being constructed by a founder who ritualized satanic values and murdered people for years in the late 19th century. In the late 20th century, the New England university is once again plague by the cult-like killers who call themselves the Greesnboro Devils. A survivor of a recent attack and a shunned detective try to hunt down the motives behinds the killings and the secrets of a legacy of killers.
The upside of Murder University stems from the use of practical special effects. Decapitations became an obvious motif for this film (though there was no reason to explain this and I can only guess that beheadings were a big way to die in the 80s) with a grand total of six axe-chopped decapitations. The detail in the severed heads had high marks as well as other death scenes in the movie. Another throwback from the 80’s is the music and Murder University’s soundtrack certainly have that synth, brit-rock feel in some scenes, but in other scenes, 90’s grunge ruled the screen a long with hairstyles and clothes of a more recent decade.
The downside holds more weight coming from the story and the dialogue. The story comes a part at the seems with lead character Josh Greene as his backstory is intertwined with the murders and to get more of that backstory from his past would have been better than the exposition given nature of who Josh really is destined to be and what Josh is destined to be comes off pointless by default. Was this the divine will of Satan? Were these killers psychotic? What were the motivations? That is the real questions. The dialogue also scores low marks for being off key, choppy, awkward, and explicatively gratuitous. Not everybody is Quentin Taratino and can pull of mouthy vulgarity with ease and the script with Murder University just seems too forced for comfort.
Jamie Dufault has a solid performance as our hero Josh Greene coming from a nobody in college and transforming to becoming the ultimate domineer in the end, but Nat Silva gives an even more solid performance as the killer (when the killer has dialogue) and Samantha Acampora (Josh’s girlfriend Meg) is certainly the eye candy that we wish would show a little more skin than just her bare ass.
Murder University‘s retro entertainment keeps afloat just under chin level and won’t bore you to death. Richard Griffin is two for two in my little black book of directors and I’ll keep an eye out for more of his material in the future. MVD and Wild Eye Releasing release this Not Rated, widescreen disc with deleted scenes and two commentary tracks. This should be a fairly affordable, tongue-and-cheek horror movie if you’re looking for a cheap, yet entertaining, thrills.
Sara Murphy – Chest
Samantha Acampora – Ass