‘Face’ Review

South Face - Image courtesy of Cinema Service and Koreafilm.orgKorea. 84 minutes.
Screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL.
Directed by Yu Sang-gon
With Shin Hyeon-jun, Song Yun-ah

Life takes some funny turns.

On short notice I found myself in Chicago last Saturday afternoon. Taking a walk to familiarize myself with the neighborhood, I stumbled across the Gene Siskel Film Center, a small triplex showing art and revival films.

As it happens, I missed the heralded GREEN CHAIR by an hour, but was in time to see FACE.

According to the program notes, this film came out in 2004, though I’d heard nothing about it. The Chicago Reader capsule summary by Fred Camper was not enthusiatic.

And…I’d have to say I’d agree.

A forensic examiner, exhausted from his work., turns in his resignation. His former boss, pressed because of a recent series of murders in which the killer disassembled the bones of the victim, sends a young and beautiful fledgling examiner to convince the reticient expert to return to his duties. The examiner, plagued by what appears to be the ghostly apparitions of the departed, finally returns to work, even as he is distracted by the serious illness of his young daughter, who is in need of a new heart.

Face - Image courtesy of Cinema Service and Gene Siskel Film CenterThe film never builds any real suspense. The first scene appears to be an outtake from the first scene of TELL ME SOMETHING (body on an examining table is brutally sliced open) and another liberally borrows from THE RING. The early spooks work well on a visceral level (eliciting at least one genuine “Oh s–!” from an audience member), but they don’t really mean anything and it’s difficult to relate them to the plot.

It feels like different horror elements are assembled in a straight line and depicted without any thought as to how they relate to the characters. So, in addition to the lack of suspense, we lose any interest in the people who are having a hard time. Who cares what happens to them?

Not to belabor the negativity, but here’s another review by Kyu Hyun Kim for KoreaFilm.org.

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