Uninvited AKA 4 Inyong shiktak (2003)
R0 - America - Panik House Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (1st November 2006).
The Film

Asian horror has been “hot” for some years now, and the main attention is usually focused on Japanese productions, mainly the “usual suspects” like “Ring AKA Ringu” and “Ju-On: The Grudge AKA The Grudge”-films and similar affairs. Korean horror has been more in the background, but some interesting films have been spawned from that part of Asia also; “Whispering Corridors AKA Yeogo goedam (1998)”, “Memento Mori AKA Yeogo goedam II (1999)”, “Phone AKA Pon (2002)”, “A Tale of Two Sisters AKA Janghwa, Hongryeon (2003)”, and “Redeye AKA Redeu-ai (2005)” - just to name a few. Of course, the “K-horror” is sometimes merely imitated “J-horror”, but it´s fair to say that Koreans can stand on their own feet when it comes to films - including the horror-genre.

To the list of the many Asian films that involve ghosts we could add the (so far) only film from the female director/writer Su-yeon Lee - “Uninvited AKA 4 Inyong shiktak (2003)”. The film tells about the interior decorator Jung-Won (Shin-yang Park), who after one of his long days at work has fallen asleep on the subway train. At the last station he suddenly wakes up, barely getting out before the train leaves. Just before that, he manages to see two girls still on the train, which appears to be sleeping. Who were they? Back at home Jung-Won is welcomed by his energetic soon-to-be-wife (wedding plans are on their way) Hee-eun (Seon Yu), who has also chosen the new dining table (with spot lights) for him. On the next day at work Jung-Won hears the horrible news on the radio; the girls that he saw last night have been found dead on the subway train. This really upsets him, but not as much what happens the next night. Again working hard, Jung-Won has fallen asleep on his work desk. He wakes up in the middle of the night, and takes a look at his new dining table (sloooowly, of course). The bodies of the two girls he saw on the train are now laying there, calmly in his kitchen. Terrified, Jung-Won tries to work on the next day, but ends up sleeping in his fathers place - only to wake up in his own screams as he dreams about the dead girls. Despite all this, his daily work won´t wait (Asians are quite known for their hard work ethic), and the next job is the renovation of the local “Mental Health Clinic”. At the clinic Jung-Won sees one of its patients, quiet Yun (Ji-hyun Jun - from “My Sassy Girl AKA Yeopgijeogin geunyeo (2001)”), who suffers from severe depression and narcolepsy, as he later learns. Jung-Won is strangely drawn to the girl, and due to the strange coincidences, Yun ends up in the passenger seat of Jung-Won´s car after a Church meeting (Jung-Won´s father has his own church). In the car, she suddenly faints due to her narcolepsy fit. Jung-Won takes her to his apartment where she finally wakes up. After Yun leaves, she also sees the dead girls in the kitchen. Are Yun and Jung-Won mentally connected somehow, since they both can see dead people? Was their destiny to meet and serve some higher purpose? Why do they see the bodies? These are the questions that start to torment Jung-Won, and he must know the truth. This means that he has to get the very reluctant Yun to talk - being almost obsessed to get some answers. Jung-Won knows that this girl might be the only way for him to keep his sanity, and solve the frightening and very puzzling situation. What begins as a spooky ghost-story, turns into a psychological study of a hidden past and guilt, and the memories that have haunted both Jung-Won and Yun. Sometimes the truth is the ultimate ghost, since it haunts probably forever.

“Uninvited” is not a typical Asian horror film, and quite frankly it´s leaning more to the “psychological suspense” as the film progress than to actual horror. This doesn´t mean that the film is not terrifying, but you don´t get that many traditional spooks or typical horror imagery. What you have is a story that requires a lot of patience, where one scene at a time it´s revealing something from the hidden, darker side of the lead characters and takes them - and the viewer, more deeper to their isolated world. With the help of Yun, Jung-Won will start to remember his traumatic memories from childhood, but at the same time it´ll slowly disconnect him from the real world and his loved ones - or better yet, real emotions. The truth should set you free, but it can also bring horror. The structure is both the strength and the weakness of the film. I can´t deny the fact that the film is intriguing and also effective in the “subtle horror”-path that it has chosen - and it does have some fine moments (the Korean shamanism-aspects were also interesting), but the ultra-slow pacing and story developments are, simply put, “too slow” to keep the audience happy all the way through - including myself. Some dialogue scenes and various encounters between the lead characters felt like they were lasting forever, and the film is really spending some serious time to get Jung-Won and Yun connected - something that could´ve been done better just by picking up the pace. Director Su-yeon Lee succeeds best by creating the melancholy and psychologically disturbing mood, but as a whole I can´t say that she created a film that would really be watched for the years to come. Further more, more horror-orientated film buffs are most likely disappointed, since the promising “dead girl”-aspect quickly falls into the background, and generally the film is not very “scary”. I do have to add, that the film includes a few quite disturbing scenes involving children (one involving the truck is really shocking), and the shots of e.g. the cat that has been run over by a car, and in that sense the film can be quite horrifying. The film finds its way to get under your skin, but it can´t keep the viewer in that state throughout the movie. That, in the end, is a bit disappointing.

I also had some issues with the lead actors. This probably isn´t the fault of the actors entirely, but it´s quite hard to watch two actors for over 2 hours, that pretty much have the same sad face throughout the movie and similar, slow paced dialogue (that often doesn´t necessarily go anywhere). Shin-yang Park has some talent, but there are scenes where his character could´ve used some added versatility, something that great actors can bring to the role - regardless of the fact that his character is quite one-dimensional. Ji-hyun Jun (playing “Yun”) is very similar, perhaps a bit too similar to Shin-yang Park´s character. Sure, “Uninvited” is about the people that are emotionally numb - desperately locked in the horrors of their past, but it´s not like you have to hit that message to the head with a hammer. Also the relationship between Jung-Won and his wife Hee-eun is a bit too vague for my taste and not fully explored. Still, the film is recommended for the people that are looking for a more subtle and “intellectual” - if you will, approach to the Asian horror. The film is not really that “spooky” in a traditional way, but it has some effective scenes that touch on that psychological side of us viewers, taking its strengths from the general uneasiness and shocking events that arrive on the screen without warning. It´s about the fears and horrors inside the human mind, which can take grip and never let go. In the end, that´s quite frightening.

Video

“Panik House” presents the film in Anamorphic 2.35:1, and the transfer is mostly fine, being clean and sharp. The film has what you could call an “edgy, urban look”, meaning that you have some harsh contrasts and some areas can be almost overexposed depending on the shots (perhaps some resemblance to acclaimed cinematographer Robert Richardson and his style). The film looks quite digital, actually. There are some minor issues with grain and edge enhancement - along with line shimmering, which prevents it from being really pristine, but generally the transfer is quite good, with strong blacks and colours. The “dual layer” disc is coded “R0”, and the film runs 127:22 minutes (NTSC). There are 27 chapters. Do note, that the back cover claims that the transfer is 1.85:1 and the running time would be 96 minutes (also DTS is not listed), so a bit of sloppy work in that department.

Audio

On the audio front we have Korean DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. No dubs are included, but the optional English and Spanish subtitles are. I chose the DTS option, which is quite loud (I had to turn the volume lower than usual) and partly aggressive, and there are some sudden directional cues from the rears from time to time to create tension, and the music and sound effects gives the atmosphere from the surround-channels. The music and dialogue are not fully balanced, so you probably have to change the volume during the film, but the audio is very satisfactory and fans of DTS can be happy (the DTS is somewhat punchier than the Dolby Digital 5.1-option).

Extras

You can choose from the bilingual Menus in English and Spanish, which means that all text notes are available in both languages, and optional subtitles are also included (with a few exceptions marked in *).

-*You can watch the film with an English audio essay, written by Art Black (of “Asian Cult Cinema” and “Psychotronic Video magazine”) and read by the Korean film licensor Ed Lee. This essay runs approx. 25 minutes (from one minute mark to 26 minute mark) and doesn´t include any subtitles. In a quite monotonic voice we hear the brief history of the Korean horror and fantasy cinema, and generally about the time when Korean films were starting to gain interest in the west also. We also hear about different genre directors, and one of the most interesting stories is heard when the (South) Korean director Sang-ok Shin was actually kidnapped to North-Korea, and was forced to make e.g. “Pulgasari (1985)” for the communist regime (he later escaped). “Uninvited” is only briefly mentioned among the other films.

-*Full length Spanish audio commentary by Jesus "Pecos" Olvera (the editor of “Al Borde”) is also included, but like the “audio essay”, this doesn´t have any subtitles, forcing me to skip it.

-“Behind-the-Scenes: The Making of The Uninvited” includes 9 short featurettes, showing footage from the set and different scenes without any narration or interviews. It´s quite interesting to see how the two lead actors Shin-yang Park and Ji-hyun Jun focus on the multiple takes, and how e.g. Jun gets the glass of water on her face many times. There is also a lot of screaming, sobbing and fainting, so not the easiest production for the actors. Featurettes are as follows:
1) Shattered glass (3:42 min)
2) Ceiling collapses (2:00 min)
3) Truck (2:03 min)
4) Afternoon tea (3:52 min)
5) Don´t drop the baby (3:33 min)
6) Rain (2:14 min)
7) Cat scan (1.20 min)
8 ) Hysteria (2:06 min)
9) The Couch (1:54 min)

-“Reminiscence: An Interview with Ji-hyun Jun & Shin-yang Park” -featurette is running 8:36 minutes, and in this interview the actors talk about the basic plot of the film, their characters, and e.g. their mutual interest of the interior designing. Jun also mentions that the production was quite difficult for her.

-“Abridged: The Uninvited Condensed” -featurette runs 15:02 minutes, and is basically the whole 2 hour film edited into 15 minutes. I´m not fully sure why this is included, but this is actually a good way to see the basic plot after the film and it can help some viewers to sum things up.

-“From Sketch to Screen: Storyboard Comparison” -featurette runs 16:55 minutes, and is guided by the director/writer Su-yeon Lee. In here we see rough illustrations and composition sketches that turned into storyboards, and finally into the film. Different scenes and locations are included, and we also learn something about how some scenes were shot, when CGI was used, etc. With different images and a quick pace, this is bound to be a bit confusing, but a nice addition nevertheless. My copy also had quite bad audio break-ups (tested with two players), like the authoring of this particular featurette wasn´t done right.

-Korean original theatrical trailer runs 1:51 minutes, and makes the film look a bit more than it actually is. In that sense, good trailer.

-Poster and still galleries are divided into two sections; “posters & promotional art” (5), and “production stills” ( 48 ).

-3 pages of production notes includes mainly promotional text for the film and the DVD-release.

-“Korean Horror: The New Frontier” -text essay by Art Black includes 16 pages and some poster art and photos.

-Cast & crew biographies includes director/writer Su-yeon Lee, actress Ji-hyun Jun, actor Shin-yang Park, actress Seon Yu, and actor Won-sang Park (who plays Moon-Sub Park).

-“Theme Music” section includes three full-length audio tracks from the film, that play over the Menu; “Grass-cut Three 1”, “Lullaby”, and “Grass-cut Tree 2”.

-One Easter Egg is also included; Go to the “Trailer” sub-menu, and highlight the “Special Features”. Now press “right” and the yellow spot is highlighted. Press “enter”, and you´ll get a music video (2:41 min), that includes scenes from the film, and the music by “Evanescence: Going Under”. The song is not heard on the film, but it sounds okay anyway.

-Keep case also includes the Collector's sticker (picture taken from the cover art) and it comes in a slipcase, with an embossed image of Ji-hyun Jun.

Overall

“Uninvited” is a film that is best to watch at the right moment, when you can give 100% to it and really focus on the story. It´s not a “date movie”, or a film where you grab something to eat in the middle of it. The film is definitely a bold attempt to create something different than just plain horror, but eventually the film is suffering from the sluggish pace and the lengthy running time. In the end it still rises above the average, and the DVD by “Panik House” is very good.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Panik House Entertainment.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.