Hansel & Gretel (Terracotta)

                                                                                        “The world is an unimaginably strange place…”

      Eun- soo (Chun Jeong-myeong) wakes up in a dark forest after skidding off the road and crashing his car. He is led to safety by a beautiful girl in red cloak holding a lantern Young-Hee (Shim Eun-kyoung). She leads him deeper into the forest to her idyllic house that looks like it comes from a fairy tale.

Inside he is introduced to the rest of the family. The parents are always anxious and nervous yet overly friendly. Hoping to stay only for the night, Eun-soo gradually learns he is trapped. Every attempt to escape proves impossible and invariably forces him to return to the house.

The sudden disappearance of the children’s parents causes Eun-soo to become desperate and also causes him to realise he is left to care for these seemingly innocent children. As the plot unfolds, it also dawns on Eun-soo that the children lure lost adults into their home in the woods and make then stay in an attempt to gain loving parents.

Things get further complicated by the arrival of an insidious couple who seem not to realise they can never leave. The cast is all about the children who grow close to Eun-soo and carry on calling him uncle. The director Yim Pil-Sung plays on the imagination of children which becomes reality. There are scenes that captivate the audience imagination as they, like the protagonist search for answers.

The children are brilliant with playing their parts as Man-Bok (Eun Won-Jae); the older of the siblings manages menace and youth effectively. The youngest also invests a lot of personal emotion into her role. The plot and the dialogue sometimes circles a few times however, there are memorable scenes in the film. The visual effect adds to the creation of horror and also hints at cannibalism due to the large supply of food close at hand. Also, the massive chunk of meat in the freeze gives a spine-chilling effect.

There are definitely scary scenes although subtle.  The sequence of events also causes viewers to develop a good bit of sympathy towards the characters.

Directed by Yim Pil-Sung

Running Time: 116 minutes

Language: Korean (with English subtitles)

Rated 15

Instant Swamp (Third Window Films)

    “Most people laugh way more than they cry”

   Instant Swamp is a comedy about Haname Jinchoge (Kumiko Aso), an occasionally eccentric but focused magazine editor. The film centres on her journey through her work and family life. She wakes up everyday thinking that day will be different but she goes to bed disappointed. She believes her daily dose of Milo sludge which is a mixture of ten spoonfuls of Milo and milk is what she needs to make her happy.

   Haname is adamant about her belief in superstition but secretly believes her bad luck is due to a black talisman cat she threw into a swamp as a revenge on her father for abandoning her. Her magazine company on the verge of going bust is just a tip of the ice-berg as her mother also falls into a coma. Haname embarks on a journey in search of her real father and the different boundaries she comes across makes her a better and care free person.

She discovers the identity of her real father Noburo Jinchoge (Morio Kazama) aka ‘Mr Light Bulb’. He also turns out to be an eccentric antiquities shop owner. She doesn’t reveal her identity to him from the beginning but with time she gets swept into his whimsical hobbies and a bond soon develops as both start to hang out a lot. The new found closeness with her biological father gives her the idea of also starting a delightful junk shop.

Instant Swamp is a film with definitely hilarious bits. The humour although subtle was effective. The high key lighting makes the film upbeat and light hearted and appeals to people who like simplistic East-Asian light hearted comedies. The characters bounce of each other in amusing ways. Similarly there are several little stories within ‘Instant Swamp’ and we are also able to move from one to another without feeling confused.

Haname’s character is likeable and also the loss of structure and responsibility sometimes motivates her to act as an adult. Her blooming friendship with the spike-haired electrician Gus (Ryo Kase) is a twist that pleased the audience. Secretly the audience expected a bit of romance to have blossomed between the two, but they are not left disappointed when they wind up as very close friends.

The story was effectively told through Haname’s life journey which also gives her a realisation of the things surrounding her.

Directed by Satoshi Miki

Running time: 120 minutes

Language: Japanese (with English subtitles)

Rated PG