In the quest to find a different kind of Asian horror (avoiding the “Yurei” theme for awhile), I stumbled upon this Korean thriller with a sort of a “Fatal Attraction” kind of theme with the twist of family. “The Hole” (a.k.a. “Olgami”, The Snare, 1997) caught my attention since it brought awards to Korean actress Choi Ji-Woo (won best new actress for her role). Directed by Kim Sung-Hong, the film may not offer anything groundbreaking but it does offer up decent suspense in a psycho war between two women who love the same man; one is the wife and the other, the man’s own mother.
Su-Jin (Choi Ji-Woo) is a beautiful young woman who was orphaned at an early age. She hopes to begin a new family by marrying a charming young man named Dong-Woo (Yong Woo-Park). However, Dong-Woo has lived interdependently with his mother (Yoon So-Jeong) since the early death of his father. Mother and son have lived together for 30 years, and when Su-Jin does moves in after the wedding, the mother isn’t too pleased. Su-Jin realizes that Dong-Woo’s mother is extremely possessive of her son and soon, Su-Jin begins to feel the hostility towards her. Apparently, Dong-Woo’s mother has a twisted idea as to what a mother’s love should be and would do whatever it takes to keep any woman away from her son.
“The Hole” is pretty much your routine film about obsession and tragic ruin. The film doesn’t really offer anything innovative or different, but it does serve up decent suspense that I found myself quite curious as to how the film would turn out. While the film is predictable on so many levels and granted, the script does have its share of flaws and gaping holes, I was pleased with the performances of its lead performers. The film is pretty entertaining that I was able to look past its plot missteps and Choi Ji-Woo is really enticing to look at. The film has this overly possessive psycho-mother theme going for it, so you can see the twists and turns coming a mile away, but it also does manage to keep you interested. I was real intrigued as to how far the close relationship really went with Dong-Woo and his mother that she would be this hostile to her beautiful daughter-in-law.
From the film’s opening act, you can see that the mother and her son has too much of a close relationship. They almost act like they were lovers and the direction doesn’t try to hide this fact. Their near-incestuous relationship is hinted at, especially when Su-Jin witnesses the mother still bathing her adult son. Alarm signals were already sounding off, but Su-Jin does try to work through it, because of her love for Dong-Woo. I thought the film was about to get worst and worst, as the film was all set to unravel in a very disturbing manner, but director Kim decides to opt for the elements of a slasher-stalker film. I thought this film would unravel as if Sion Sono or Takashi Miike was on its helm, but I remembered that this is a Korean film, and a truly disturbing sequence would go against its nature.
Still, the film does slowly unravel in a suspenseful manner driven by the performances of Choi Ji-Woo and Yoon So-Jeong. The two women made for several convincing scenes of rivalry and what made it disquieting is the idea that they are competing for the affections as a wife and as a mother-lover. I know the idea is a little too far-fetched but the idea did bring some chills to my bones, I cannot imagine a psycho-mother behaving this way. The fact that the mother sees her daughter-in-law as another ‘toy’ that would not sever the close ties between mother and son is pretty twisted. Su-Jin is a character who I found very sympathetic, as she was prepared and happy to fulfill her duties as a wife and a daughter-in-law. She tries to reach out and be part of the family, but her efforts are seen as manipulative by the mother.
The script does begin fairly strong, but started to lose steam in the second half as some devices in the story began to be filled with major contrivances. I felt that the script didn’t exactly flesh out the events before the wedding, and that some scenes felt too convenient. I also thought that the direction didn’t have the guts to really follow through with its intentioned theme that it fell to the trappings of the usual psycho-killer premise. The film’s soundtrack also bothered me quite a bit that it had the qualities of a bombastic 80’s thriller. The film has several sex scenes but they weren’t too graphic and the scenes didn’t have any nudity. There are quite a few scenes of violent behavior that definitely brings the mother’s madness into exposition.
Still, “The Hole” makes for some entertaining experience. It is a fairly decent thriller and I am sure that the movie would find an audience. The film’s plot isn’t anything special but the great performances saved the movie for me. It had some spicy ideas that were strongly hinted at, but the direction just didn’t follow through. (did they or didn’t they?) I was also a bit disappointed with the film’s climax that I thought it was a cheap shot to play at emotions. But “The Hole” is a pretty entertaining thriller, a rampaging psycho-mother who wants to keep the ultimate momma’s boy is always interesting.