aka 오싹한 연애 aka Ossakhan Yeonae aka Spellbound
Written and directed by Hwang In-ho
Seeing dead people is not just a job for kids who will grow up to have DUIs, but also women in Korea! Yeo-ri has isolated herself from her family and her life because she’s tormented by continual visits from the recently deceased, especially the visits of a particular ghost, her former best friend, Joo-hee. Joo-hee blames Yeo-ri for her death, and constantly harasses Yeo-ri’s family and friends have forced the drastic measures. But can such a woman find love? Because Chilling Romance isn’t just a horror film, it’s a romantic comedy! Yes, two genres that shouldn’t go together at all suddenly pull a peanut butter and chocolate moment for Chilling Romance.
The ghosts aspects are a mishmash of Sixth Sense and the long-hair ghost films. Some of the Sixth Sense imagery is copied directly, from the dead wanting help to the tent scene. The tone of the scenes are stark and depressing, a lot of quiet standing around and pointing, or looking at people in pain or sorrow. But when Joo-hee is around, the tone changes to more shock jumpcuts, almost as if the movie knew it had to become something different for the different type of ghosts…
To counter all of that, we got a bunch of magician things going on. The razzle dazzle of the spectacle is a complete contrast to the morose Yeo-ri. Jo-goo makes his living from being charismatic and a showman, the opposite of the quiet and reserved Yeo-ri, who doesn’t want to attract attention from people who will end up ultimately hurt. Jo-goo originally wants her to join his troupe because he finds her interesting, but as they spend more time together their chemistry grows, much to the annoyance of the ghost Joo-hee and Jo-goo’s girlfriend.
Chilling Romance was also released as Spellbound. Director Hwang In-ho wrote the script, and this is his first feature film.
Street magician Ma Jo-goo is pulling out all the tricks when he notices Kang Yeo-ri, a girl who doesn’t smile or even change her dismal expression. Fascinated, he follows and she becomes his inspiration for a horror magic show that sweeps Korea by storm. Yeo-ri is hired into the act, though she never hangs out with any of the other performers and always runs off home after shows. Jo-goo tries to get her out of her shell, and forces her to go to an all night drinking outing…and Yeo-ri really packs away the alcohol.
Creepy things happen around Yeo-ri. Her only friend Min-jung is someone she communicates solely by phone. Min-jung adds in her own friend to the calls, a romance author named Yoo-Jin who is a refined romance expert and is either bathing or just in or out of the tub during every one of the phone conversations. The conversations range from light-hearted to deep introspection of just how much pain Yeo-ri’s life is causing her.
The main conflict is the vengeful ghost Joo-hee, ever-watching Yeo-ri and messing with her life. We see it’s a mix of revenge and jealousy. Jo-goo runs right into the problems of a ghost-spotting girlfriend. To his credit, he seems to take everything in stride, from a mysterious ghost kid that follows him to his home to Joo-hee appearing at night above his bed trying to spook him away.
Chilling Romance is a romantic horror film, not really a romantic comedy, though there are some funny moments. The tone is unlike a lot of romance, the change is a good change because it doesn’t bungle the difference, it uses it to help with the mood and advance the story
There is a bit of meta-commentary on the horror films, particularly an ongoing discussion about how the female horror leads can’t fall in love, because then their screams won’t be desperate enough. Chilling Romance is aware of its influences, but also aware of where it is going. Sections feel like they’re lifted from conversations about the film instead of the film itself.
The big problem is a problem. At times, the solution seems to be just to run away. But running away doesn’t solve problems, and it won’t solve the issues facing both their lives. Even the end, things seem to have softened a bit, but the danger will always be there.
Rated 7/10 (chosen, ghost bow, necklace, the choice, painting power, wall art, the girlfriend)
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