A Record of Sweet Murder [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Unearthed Films / MVD Visual
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (22nd May 2019).
The Film

Young South Korean journalist Soyeon (Breathless' Kkobbi Kim) receives a phone call from childhood classmate Sangjoon (Public Enemy Returns' Je-wook Yeon) who recently escaped from a mental hospital and has reportedly murdered eighteen people. He promises her an exclusive, asking that she meet him in private and specifies that the cameraman that accompanies her be Japanese and that the interview be shot in one take. She and Tashiro (director Kji Shiraishi) are directed to the fifth floor of a derelict apartment building in the old part of the city. Sangjoon pulls a knife on them, demanding their phones but promising to return them, threatening only to kill them if they do not listen to his story. He tells her that he has actually killed twenty-five people and that the last bodies have not surfaced yet. He shows her a videotape he shot when they were children in which their classmate Yoonjin is struck and killed by a speeding car, the traumatic aftermath of which lead to his institutionalization at age ten. Sangjoon reveals that the voice of God told him that he should escape when he turned twenty-seven and kill twenty-seven people in order to bring Yoonjin back to life. Sangjoon promises Soyeon and Tashiro that they are not to be the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh victims, and horrifies them by showing them the intended two who ultimately did not meet the requirements. After mercy killing the two, he keeps Soyeon and Tashiro from running away by showing her exactly how God told her to contact Soyeon and communicated the requirements of the last two victims: a Japanese couple in love with one another and bearing spots on their necks, as well as the appointed time of their arrival and deaths. Soyeon tries to convince Sangjoon that he must stop, and that one life is not worthy twenty-seven others; however, Sangjoon feels the burden to complete the cycle not only to bring Yoonjin back but also because God has told him that the victims will come back as well, and that the video Tashiro is shooting will be a record of the miracle. When a pair of Japanese newlyweds, Ryota (Shadow of Sand's Rytar Yonemura) and Tsukasa (Naked Ambition 2's Tsukasa Aoi), show up at the appointed time, Sangjoon makes Soyeon and Tashiro a captive audience as he tests the pair's love for one another; however, the Japanese couple have some surprises of their own. A Record of Sweet Murder is not the first time Kji Shiraishi has experimented with the "found footage" format, but it falls far short of his wonderfully slow-burn but more sprawling Noroi: The Curse. The bulk of the film was ostensibly shot in one take with the director acting as his own cameraman, and comes across as a sort of filmed play with its mostly single setting and camera that mostly pans about or zooms in or out. While the notion of a seeming madman's delusions gradually appearing to be something more than a series of coincidences has the potential to unsettle, the succession of events just feels contrived, as do the out-of-left-field surprises while the onscreen violence and sexual brutality seem just as contrived to spike the story with exploitable content rather than actually shock the viewer. The end result is diverting and well-shot being a Nikkatsu studio Japanese/Korean production rather than the DIY independent effort it appears but nothing special. While it is still shocking that some of the director's earlier horror films did not make it stateside during the Asian horror craze of last decade, one wonders if A Record of Sweet Murder is only making its stateside debut five years after release because the price for the U.S. rights has been lowered. Whether the viewer writes this film off or not, they are encouraged to check out some of Kji Shiraishi other works.

Video

Digitally photographed and exhibited, A Record of Sweet Murder probably looks no better or worse than on Unearthed Films' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray than it did on the screen owing to the "found footage" aesthetic.

Audio

The sole audio option is a Korean/Japanese LPCM 2.0 stereo track that is largely front-oriented due to the predominance of dialogue with some directional effects in the frenetically-photographed and choreographed action as well as a climactic instance of CGI. Optional English subtitles get off to a rough start as some lines that are not offscreen are bracked with less-than and greater-than characters suggesting that they were meant to be italicized but something went wrong with the input of the characters, as well as an attempt to simultaneously translate both spoken dialogue and some instances of onscreen text.

Extras

The only extras are the film's theatrical trailer (1:30) and trailers for seven other films.

Overall

Whether the viewer writes off A Record of Sweet Murder or not, they are encouraged to check out some of Kji Shiraishi other works.

 


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