Hello everyone! I’ll be continuing with my film binge in the upcoming weeks as I struggle to decide which dramas I want to commit to next. Bluebeard is a production I’ve wanted to see for a long time, due to my appreciation for Jo Jin Woong. I had trouble finding an HD English subbed version, so I put off watching it in the hopes that it would get subbed later down the road. A few nights ago I checked again with no luck, but I also happened to mention this in passing on twitter, and found out that it was available on Netflix. I don’t have a Netflix account, but a kind friend helped me out, so I was finally able to see the film for myself.
(A big thank you to my friend, Tai! 💙💙💙)
[Be Forewarned: Spoilers Below].
Bluebeard is a psychological thriller film written and directed by Lee Soo Yeon. The film was released March 1st, 2017 and spans 117 minutes.
After his own Gangnam clinic goes bankrupt, Seung Hoon (Jo Jin Woong) moves to a satellite town and begins work at a small colonoscopy clinic to make ends meet. His living arrangement consists of a cramped, one bedroom apartment, which he rents from neighbors who run the butcher shop below him. When his landlord (Shin Goo) visits the clinic for a last minute appointment, Seung Hoon obliges. While under sedation, the old man seemingly gives a confession for multiple murders. Soon afterword, a news broadcast reveals that a headless, female torso has washed up on the bank of the now melted, Han river. Seung Hoon begins to suspect his landlord and his landlord’s son, Sung Geun (Kim Dae Myung), are involved in a string of unsolved serial murders, launching him into a cycle of paranoia and hysteria.
Watching Bluebeard was probably one of the more agonizing things I’ve done to myself lately. I say that, not because the film was full of nail-biting moments of suspense, but because it was just the opposite. I didn’t know it was possible to construct a psychological thriller that lacked any tension whatsoever, but I must give a hand to Lee Soo Yeon, because she sure did prove me wrong.
Bluebeard is much like a pot of water that never comes to a simmer, let alone a boil. Gore is almost nonexistent in the film, as most of the thrill is supposed to come from what Seung Hoon assumes is a human head, poking out of a black bag in the butcher shop freezer. If you are an observant person, such as myself, it would have been quite obvious from the start that they were merely using this bag as a red herring, and would most likely reveal it to be an animal head later down the road. Consequently, the continuous shots of this black bag did not produce the bone chilling effect they were striving for. It got old and repetitious real quick.
Aside from the apparent absence of chills and thrills, the film wastes a whopping seventy-five minutes before finally getting around to executing a mediocre plot twist—one that was blatantly obvious early on into the movie, even to the most obtuse viewer. By the time the production gets around to fleshing out this less-than-sudden turn of events, the boredom and mental exhaustion suffered from the first three-quarters of the movie begins to creep in and take effect, making the struggle to hang on for something predictable, all the more challenging. The last thirty minutes of the film unfold in a series of poorly knitted flashbacks, which thwart the entirety of what’s taken place up until that point. Seung Hoon turns out to be the unreliable narrator—as expected if close attention was paid to his erratic behavior and turmoil riddled life— and the excessive paranoia he had was not actually out of fear of his neighbors, but perhaps a manifestation of his own subconscious guilt, which his deluded state of mind causes him to project onto the ‘other.’
Even more offensive, is that last five minutes of the film, where the blackbox of one victim’s car reveals that the landlord butcher is the culprit behind her murder. This second twist felt like a giant “fuck you,” as it completely undermines the previous thirty minutes they spent painting Seung Hoon as the true killer. Not only was it nonsensical, but it came off as a cheap way to try and make the movie more innovative than it actually was. Even if the landlord did kill Seung Hoon’s ex-wife, it was evident that Seung Hoon was undoubtedly the suspect behind the Han river victim. So the only things that change in these last five minutes are the fact that Seung Hoon might have only killed one person instead of two. And, the landlord was a killer, who got away with pinning the blame of the ex-wife’s death onto Seung Hoon. Either way, I still don’t end up giving a rat’s ass about the old man, because by this point, the movie has droned on for entirely too long. All in all, the film should have been an hour and a half at most, with the beginning shaved down, and the last five minutes eliminated entirely.
Leaving the poor execution and jumbled storyline behind, I wasn’t too impressed with the cinematography or music. Neither were extraordinary, and I found the latter pretty inadequate, especially considering the fact that thrillers can benefit greatly from a solid soundtrack. When building tension, the right music and sound effects can be crucial to the creation of those blood-curdling moments, which seemed to be missing throughout this production. The cinematography wasn’t poor, but it certainly wasn’t anything to write home about either. It had a nice, clean feel to it, with several shots capturing Seung Hoon’s redundant and disparaging quality of life that’s slowly overrun with psychosis.
The lone saving grace of this movie was its cast. Jo Jin Woong is exceptionally engrossing, especially as the final portion of the film kicks into gear, and he’s able to dig deep into the grit of his character. The stark contrast between his behavior in the beginning compared to the second act is mind blowing. The way he had his hands and lips trembling in the interrogation room as he sputtered in disbelief was phenomenal. This man understands the importance and sheer gravity of micro-expressions. Put simply, he acted this role to perfection. Shin Goo was another stand out actor for me. His part was relatively small compared to the rest, but he was mighty effective as the ominous old man with a habit of eating raw meat. Equally as unnerving, was Kim Dae Myung as the friendly, but extremely odd, son of the landlord. Despite his seemingly harmless outward appearance, there was something incredibly unsettling about his interactions with Seung Hoon in the first chunk of the movie, which we find out later is a result of Seung Hoon’s paranoia, but it speaks to the nice job done by Dae Myung.
Bluebeard was a train that never left the tracks. Boring from start to finish, the story disappoints in more areas than one. Apart from some stellar acting on Jo Jin Woong’s part, there’s nothing noteworthy about the overall film. I wouldn’t recommend wasting your time with this one. It’s a snooze fest with a climax that stops offensively short of epic. If you want to watch a good psychological thriller, you’ll have to look elsewhere, as you’re not going to find it here.
Have you watched Bluebeard? What did you think of the film? If you haven’t already, you can check out the trailer here.