I recently started watching more Asian Horror at the urging of a friend. This film is among the ones she suggested I view and I have mixed feelings on it. The Red Shoes (Bunhogsin) is a 2005 South Korean Horror/Mystery directed by Kim Yong-gyun based on the Fairy Tale of the same name and I use based here loosely a more fitting term would be inspired by. That has some very striking visuals, but suffers from a chaotic and jumbled plot.
The film opens with a girl on the subway looking a pair of red shoes left abandoned at the edge of the platform. She goes over to claim the shoes as her own to be attacked by a fellow classmate who takes the shoes claiming they were hers. The classmate then leaves and in the classic horror format is killed. The film then shifts to following Sun-jae (played by Kim Hye-soo) a mother in an unhappy marriage who, upon coming home early one day finds her husband with another woman. Sun-jae leaves him taking her daughter Tae-su (played by Park Yeon-ah) with her and move into a small dark apartment near the subway. Later Sun-jae meets with the films leading man In-cheol (played by Kim Sung-soo) an architect working on the interior design for her new business. On her way home she sees the pair of red shoes from the films opening and takes the unclaimed shoes. She becomes fascinated and obsessive over the shoes as does her daughter. We start to learn the who ever steals the shoes which all women who see them are compelled to do die. Now that her daughter has stolen the shoes from her Sun-jae with the help of In-cheol who by this time has become her boyfriend must unravel the mystery of the shoes leading them back to the murder of a ballerina sixty years prior.
So this film has a lot going for it and over all I did enjoy it. The acting was mostly solid with Kim Hye-soo, Kim Sung-soo and Kim Mi-hee who plays Sun-jae’s friend does notably good performances. The death scenes are all solid, even original at times. The films atmosphere is both immersive and haunting, making me recommend it to fans of ghost revenge stories.
But the film is also very cliched and also very predictable at times. Mostly when it comes to Sun-jae’s subplots involving her husband. Also much of the internal logic of the film seems to fall apart if you look at it for too long. But it’s the films baffling ending that annoys me most. I had to look up what the film was trying to say online after the fact the twist just didn’t make any sense to me. This could be a culture or a language barrier issue, but I can’t help but feel it’s more an issue of bad storytelling.
But the films biggest crime is the pacing. Long stretches of the films screen time passes in which very little happens and that’s something that will take the fright out of me every single time. Much if is to add to the atmosphere, but fails abysmally at it.
So at the end of it all what do I think? The Red Shoes is… meh. It’s got some great visual shots and even some fun character development. Altho it also has the smell of a film that was shot before the script was where it needed to be to tell the story that it wanted to tell. So I give The Red Shoes a 6/10. I recommend this film to people who enjoy ghost stories and aren’t bothered by needlessly jumbled story telling.