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By Mariko McDonald | June 24, 2004

As I may have pointed out in previous columns the fiancé and I both work at a local alternative video store which is occupied by the various sorts of malcontents one would expect to find in such an environment. As a result, in addition to the fabulous and far reaching catalogue which is the rental department of the store, we also find in the other staff an invaluable source of hard to find, not yet released, grey-market movies. Usually it’s poor ol’ Sinister Sam who we milk as our our personal sacred movie cow, but this time our buddy Don was able to pony up the goods as it were.

We’d been hearing for some time about “Ju-On: The Grudge” (in our defense, before the Sarah Michelle Gellar version was announced) so when Don mentioned that he had come upon a copy we were quick to program it and find out what all the fuss was about. We do take some pride here at the Den of Sin in being the first to screen certain movies, at least among our core group of friends, but it turns out we’d been scooped on this one as three of the regulars had already seen it. But since our general criteria states only that my fiancé and I should not have seen it yet we decided to act quickly and show it at the Den of Sin.

But what to program with a new school Japanese shocker with an American “re-imagining” (at least it’s directed by Takashi Shimizu) soon to hit theaters? Well, apparently my fiancé had been reading quite a bit lately about a Korean thriller called “Tell Me Something” that he’d been dying to check out. I guess after catching “A Tale of Two Sisters” and “Save the Green Planet” at the VIFF last year he was eager to immerse himself in as much Kim-Chi cinema as possible. Unfortunately what we didn’t realize is that when a review says “slick” they mean shiny and stupid.

Enticed with promises of Japanese scares we had a pretty good turnout with 11 people showing, including one newbie (hi Karl). Since the days have been getting longer and brighter we tried to delay starting as long as we could and still get up in the morning for work, but it still wasn’t dark enough for “Ju-On: The Grudge” so “Tell Me Something” kicked us off. There was some amusement as our friend Damon attempted to translate the Korean text for us, he being the resident Rice King and official authority on all things Korean. Unfortunately the best he could do was “Korean stuff, Korean stuff” so we mocked him greatly. This was followed by someone mentioning “Dragonstorm” again and although Corinne swears that her recent absences have more to do with school than my fiance’s programming choice, just the very mention of that “film” caused her to fly into a rage (again) and almost beat him senseless. Luckily we were all distracted by some extremely bloody gore within the first two minutes of the film so we knew we were off to a good start. However, aside from the start, the gore was the only thing that was good about this movie.

The plot seems to have been cooked up by someone who watched a lot of “erotic thrillers” in the early nineties, took the scripts, tossed them into a blender and hit “puree”. This movie’s got it all: a cop on the edge haunted by the recent death of his mother and under investigation by internal affairs; his hapless (overweight) partner with a fondness for peanuts; a mysterious abusive father; a fragile woman at the center of all these murders and more red herrings than you could shake a stick at. The only thing that sets it apart from any film made between 1989 & 1995 with Michael Douglas is the amount and scale of the gore. There are giant garbage bags filled with gore that spill open in giant geysers, tidal waves of blood that cause huge 15 car pileups and every body part you could imagine stuffed into tiny little freezer baggies. Seriously, the gore is the only thing that identifies this as an Asian film (well, aside from the language).

The formulaic plot driven by each character’s increasingly stupid behavior, ominous overuse of bad pop music (Placebo in this case) and the overt symbolism (granted not everyone present would have known that white is the colour associated with death in Asia, but the primary audience for this movie would have) were serious downers. But at least everything looked good. We were also able to give ourselves brownie points for recognizing Jung-ah Yum as the stepmother from “A Tale of Two Sisters”. However, unless every one of her movies from here on out is about fluffy signing bunnies I don’t think any of us will ever be able to trust her again.

Time for “Ju-On: The Grudge” in part two of ENTER THE DEN OF SIN: BAGS OF BLOOD & LITTLE BOYS PAINTED BLUE>>>

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