In his new horror flick Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum, it seems that South Korean writer/director Beom-sik Jeong took the time-worn axiom that “imitation it is the sincerest form of flattery” to heart and then some. A uninspired blend of well-worn conventions stripped from a rogue’s gallery of horror/suspense films including The Blair Witch Project, The Ring, and The Grudge, Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum is short on scares but is elevated a step above its straight-to-streaming peers thanks to the solid acting of its attractive cast, inventive cinematography, and excellent set design.
The film wastes no time, kicking things into high gear from the outset by introducing two teenage boys who have snuck into the infamous Gonjiam Asylum. First opened in the early 1960s only to be closed down in the late 1970s after a rash of suicides and the disappearance of the institution’s director, Gonjiam is apparently deemed one of the three most haunted places in South Korea. As such, it apparently attracts a fair share of thrill seekers looking to prove their mettle/resolve like these two knuckleheads who we witness trying to break into room 402 — the last locked door in the place. Anyone who opens said portal is cursed to die, goes the local legend. Suffice to say, some doors should stay closed.
“…after a rash of suicides Gonjiam is deemed one of the three most haunted places in South Korea.”
In an interesting twist, the film then shifts to the set of Horror Times, an online ghost hunting show hosted by a charismatic young man — aka “The Captain” — who postulates that the evil that occupies accursed asylum may actually spring from the fact that it was built on an old World War II burial ground or perhaps because it had been the site of a torture facility previously used by the country’s secret police. Regardless, faster than you can say Scooby Doo, Horror Times is on the case. Accompanied by a team of nubile young archetypes — including the nerdy/science-y girl, the hot though not so bright Korean American chick, the technophile guy, the wry jokester, and a few others — The Captain and his squad of six set out to expose the truth about what may or may not luck within Gonjiam Asylum.