FACE (2004) is a South Korean thriller directed by Sang Gon Yoo, the same man who directed the Korean erotic drama "Yellow Flower". Equal parts ghost story and equal parts murder mystery with a touch of forbidden romance; the film is quite ambitious. However, the problems with the movie weren't all about its script, it also lacked coherency.
Lee Hyun-Min (Shin Hyeon Jun) is a sculptor but not your usual artist. He is the kind who assists the police to reconstruct skulls in order to recreate a "face". Hyun-Min's daughter is just recovering from a heart transplant and Hyun-Min needs to take a sabbatical. Unfortunately, a serial killer is on the loose and he has a very distinct way of eliminating the bodies that will require his expertise. Aided by a beautiful aspiring facial reconstructive sculptor; Jun Sun-Young (Sung Yu-ah), what he stumbles upon is something more sinister than he could have imagined--that involves human organs and the supernatural.
The film is full of atmosphere and it exudes creepiness. Of course, the long-haired ghost makes an appearance, and those scenes are quite creepy in its own way. The usual formulas are present as the ghost gives the main character the feeling of dread. The appearances of the ghost were puzzling and at the same time it arouses my curiosity enough to see just where everything is headed. However, this is not your typical ghost movie and the film does attempt to find its "heart". The film is also a murder mystery and it focuses more on this premise rather than the ghost itself. Most of its proceedings involve investigation and the scares are there only to provide some reminder of the supernatural's presence.
The problems with "FACE" is that it seemed to have pitched too many ideas with potential but it ended up not developing each one with credibility. The visions experienced by Hyun-Min's child has so severely underdeveloped that it seemed like a cheap way to induce the usual scares. True, it may make some sense in the climax but it somehow didn't add anything more to the film's pace. Also, the film may have showed its hand too soon. I would have preferred its `shock value' to be revealed perhaps after everything has slowed down. The direction was competent enough but it just didn't play its `aces' well.
The film is also decently acted as Shin Hyeon-Jun is by no means a slouch in his performance. The man has done comedies (Guns and Talks) and action epics (Bichunmoo); now he tries his hand at horror. He does a decent performance despite that he has so little to work with, he was rather convincing as the single father of an ailing child. Pretty Song Yu-Ah is the most intriguing character in the film. She is lovely, smart and exudes that "girl next door look". The blossoming feelings that start to surface between the two isn't surprising; this is a Korean film so expect the a "bittersweet" resolution to all of this.
"Face" is a decent horror movie from South Korea. The plot does have some holes when you nit-pick each one and its direction needed to be more coherent and solid. There were times that I felt that the script was just running all over the place. The supposed `shocking' revelation lost some of its effect because it showed its hand too soon that it felt like a throw-away detail. I was rather disappointed that the direction didn't play all its cards right. On a film like this, timing is everything. On the plus side, the film is quite touching in its own way and plays its theme of love and devotion successfully. The film isn't really that bad but thankfully it wasn't a lot worse.
Recommended with caution, Rent it first. [3 Out of 5 Stars] This review was originally posted in amazon on July, 2008