“The Closet” Movie Review

클로젯 – Closet
Korea 2020, Kim Kwang-Bin

Ha Jeong-Woo – Sang-Won
Kim Nam-Gil – Heo Kyung-Hoon
Heo Yool – Ina

Single parent Sang-Won moves into an isolated mansion in an attempt to reconnect with his little daughter Ina. At first scared of the old closet in her bedroom, Ina’s behavior gets more and more erratic after finding an old doll inside. And then she suddenly disappears. Sang-Won suspects a crime at first, but after months of fruitless searching, it slowly dawns on him that there might be something paranormal involved. And Sang-Won’s daughter wasn’t the first child to disappear in the area, as it turns out. Could the closet have something to do with it? With the help of shady wannabe shaman Mr. Heo, Sang-Won tries everything in his power to get his daughter back.

How often have you been afraid something might be hiding in your closet? Well you’re not alone.

Let’s start with the good parts. I actually quite enjoyed this one, it was probably the first decent K-horror I’d seen in ages. It’s also quite rare for a high-profile actor like Ha Jeong-Woo to star in a horror movie. Although he probably didn’t break a sweat, his presence is more than sufficient to carry the movie. A more interesting character though is Kim Nam-Gil’s Mr. Heo, literally stealing every scenes he is in with his quirky personality. The dynamics between the two are one of the movie’s high points. Thanks to the likeable cast, it’s easy to get into the story and feel for Sang-Won’s plight. There are also some funny allusions to other movies and Korean pop culture, and I appreciated the inclusion of Korean shamanist mythology, a recent trend as it seems. We also get to see plenty of ghosts, inhabitants of the ghost world inside the closet. In one memorable scene, Sang-Won is surrounded by a whole group of them and has to keep his eyes shut so they can’t see him. Ghost effects were visually well done overall, but didn’t give me sleepless nights or anything. Apart from that, the whole movie actually has very strong visuals and top-notch production design.

(Coming part might contain spoilers)

What I didn’t like about The Closet? Well, it literally borrows ideas from every horror movie in history. Just to mention a few: Female vengeful spirit: Check. Single parent after car accident: Check. Eerie old mansion in the middle of nowhere: Check. Creepy little girl with imaginary friends: Check. Portal to another world: Check. The ghost world seems to have been lifted from Insidious in its entirety. Anyway, you’ll get to see every horror cliche imaginable. Probably the only original ideas here are the shamanism parts and the character of Mr. Heo. Apart from that, I felt like the showdown and payoff didn’t quite live up to the premise. Not to mention that it’s all very predictable. The children’s disappearances and hauntings ultimately all boil down to one all too familiar ghost story (girl tragically murdered and became a vengeful spirit), culminating in a typical Korean melodrama ending. A more original conclusion might have made for a more satisfying watch, but oh well.

In conclusion, The Closet is a good example of horror becoming more mainstream. As the first major Korean horror release in a while, it was also relatively successful at the box office. While that’s a good thing, higher production value and all, bigger audience appeal also means having to tone down the horror a little. Nevertheless I have to admit I enjoyed the movie from start to finish. It might feel like a “best of” medley of horror, but who cares as long as it’s fun to watch. If you can overlook the the abundant horror cliches, there is actually a lot to be enjoyed here.

Good:

High production value; entertaining story; great main cast.

Bad:

Steals ideas from everywhere; sappy melodrama ending.

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