‘Madcap’ is probably the best word to use when describing this science fiction action/comedy from South Korea. I wouldn’t be afraid to use ‘zany’ and ‘wacky’, either.
In the opening scene, which seems more from a horror than an action film, we get introduced to Cho-in (Kang Don-won), a young boy that can control the minds of those around him. His is an unhappy childhood, and once we flash forward with him to adulthood, we see that he lives a miserably lonely existence, toying with those around him. Gyoo-nam (Soo Go) is a simple young man with no particular ambitions but a certain lust for life that is best seen when he’s hanging around his two best mates, one who’s originally from Ghana and one who’s from Turkey. When Gyoo-nam and Cho-in meet by chance, the psychic is disturbed to learn that Gyoo-nam is the only person who is immune to his control. Thus begins an ongoing battle between the two of them as they try to take each other out.
Haunters features some absolutely brilliant and original scenes. Writer Min-suk Kim squeezes every available idea out of the film’s premise, and doesn’t disappoint. There are half a dozen standout set pieces that are really quite thrilling. It’s genius because it’s such a simple (and cheap) idea that merely requires a lot of extras to act in unison. We’ve been bombarded with super-hero movies in the last decade or so, but this one strikes gold without resorting to CGI.
Despite the gravity of the situations Gyoo-nam finds himself in, Haunters makes regular excursions into comedy, and this makes for a wonderfully balanced film, as it manages to be kick-arse without becoming pretentious. Some of the ‘downtime’ in between set pieces can be a little slow, and if you’re after a faster-paced Hollywood-type production, then such scenes may frustrate. I urge you stick with it, however, because it really is a wonderful film.
Speaking of Hollywood, I’m certain that this will get the remake treatment some day. They’ll up the budget and cast someone famous, but I wonder whether they’ll be able to improve on the original. The only flaw with Haunters is that it’s too long – it could have been a lean 90 minutes instead of 107. It loses its way a bit towards the end also, but these two problems weren’t significant enough to ruin the film for me.
Haunters is a joy to watch, and a must for anyone who wants to see a superhero-type movie that’s anything but generic. The significance of the film’s title, however, is completely lost on me.
Haunters is out now on DVD from Madman.Rating: