[Korean Film Review] Chilling Romance, 오싹한 연애 (2011)

Our ghoul was a little more sinister than depicted here.

***contains spoilers***

Direction and screenplay by : Hwang In-ho
Main Cast: Son Ye-jin, Lee Min-ki, Park Cheol-min, Kim Hyeon-sook

Street magician Ma Jo-gu (Lee Min-ki) happens upon a sullen young woman in the crowd while performing tricks one night. Compelled by her sombre aura he follows her as she walks away, when it appears that she has some supernatural energy following her. Thinking that he will be able to use her to reinvent his act and make money through an exorcism magic act he employs her. Unbeknownst to him, she is a medium for the dead.

This medium is our protagonist Kang Yeo-ri (Son Ye-jin) who is forced to live a solitary life due to a particular spirit terrorizing her and those in her life.  Yeo-ri’s been forced to live this life since her teenage years after an accident made her heart stop and was given the ability to perceive dead souls after she was revived and so is awkward around her colleagues and refuses to join workplace socials. Jo-gu imposes himself on her and their relationship grows as does his experiences with her ghoulish companions.  Some are benign, seeking her out to solve their murders or save the lives of their loved ones. The ghost terrorizing her, Joo-hee, has a particular relationship with Yeo-ri and is hellbent on driving potential suitors away (a surprise cameo by the attractive Lee Hyun Jin which I very much appreciated). Jo-gu however cannot seem to stay away from Yeo-ri as his attraction to her grows even when continuously confronted by an increasingly menacing Joo-hee.

A romantic-comedy at its core with the compulsory airport confrontation, the horror element offers a fresh premise to the saturated genre. Son Ye Jin and Lee Min Ki bring enough talent and comedic timing to ground this film in reality- as realistic as love budding amongst a haunting can be.  In lesser hands this premise could have been a train wreck. Son brings innocence to Yeo-ri that makes her endearing and Lee shows great comedic timing throughout the film.  There are some genuinely hilarious moments- Jo-gu’s daydream during a coffee date drew big laughs. There are also some frightening and suspenseful scenes reminding us that Chilling Romance is more than just a romance film. The ending credits was hilarious, be sure to watch it. If there’s anything negative to say about the film it is its length. At an hour and 53 minutes, the film seems to reach its climax at an earlier point in the film, only to have the film resolve its issues much later. I’m not sure if it was intentional or the way the film was edited but there was a break in continuity and tone that was unnecessary in the film but managed to produce a laugh.

TtoT Rating: 8.25/10

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