Black House: Unrated
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Rob Fields (10th April 2008).
The Film

As I’ve read in a couple of reviews, it’s too bad we don’t get to pick and choose what we get to review. Otherwise, I would probably only review horror movies. Sigh. Still, I take them when I can get them. When it comes to film, I suppose I have two sides. My lighter side enjoys watching independent/foreign films and art cinema. However, I also have a dark side. I’m a horror buff. I’ve been watching horror movies since I was old enough to be able to rent my own movies back in high school. As time went on, DVD would made its way into the world. While I never invested in the past formats (such as LaserDisc), I decided to invest in DVD. As I upgraded my collection from VHS to DVD, I started to learn things about this new format. I also came to understand that there were ways that I could watch DVD's that didn’t necessarily come from the United States. When my lighter side was attending the Cleveland International Film Festival, I was able to track down some of these independent and foreign titles. So I figured, going from one extreme to the other, why not horror movies. So eventually I would end up tracking down titles that would lead me into the Asian culture. I’ll throw a few titles out there. How about “A Tale of Two Sisters” (2003), “The Ring Trilogy” (1998-2000), “The Ring Virus” (1999), “Last Life in the Universe” (2003), “Ju-On: The Grudge” (2003), and the list goes on and on...Many of these titles don’t rely necessarily on blood and guts or extreme nudity in order to make them great horror/suspense movies. They have the psychological/scare factor that makes them great. This could be why the die-hard horror buffs love watching Asian horror. At one point, I had reviewed “Nightmare Detective” (2007) for this site. Now I have another Asian horror title to review called “Black House” (2007). I gave high marks to “Nightmare Detective” because of the story told. So, will “Black House” gain high marks...or will it gain black marks? Read on...

“Black House” (1:43:32) – Inside the walls...beneath the floors...underneath the stairs...lies unspeakable horror. A strange call leads an insurance investigator (Jeong-min Hwang) to a rundown house where he discovers gruesome secrets – beginning with the body of an apparent suicide victim. The more he learns, the more the terror escalates, climaxing to an unforgettable and blood-soaked ending. Brace yourself and enter into the most terrifying structure ever built.

I loved how this somewhat supernatural thriller kept me on the edge of my seat. It kept me watching and wondering what was going to happen next. Some of the things I was able to guess. Like I said, I’m a horror buff. You watch enough horror movies, you’ll pretty much be able to compile the gospel of horror movies in your own mind. I also enjoyed how the male lead ended up being the hounded victim, as opposed to the female in probably about ninety-five percent of horror films. “Black House” went in a different direction. As for the scare factor? Yup, it’s here. This time, courtesy of Korea. But don’t worry, gorehounds, there’s plenty of red stuff here for you, as well. It’s not off the wall, but it’s there. Just wait until you see inside the house toward the last act. Kudos to Director Terra Shin on a job well done. The story is easy to follow. Yes, even though there are scares and blood, there’s also a story. Without this, the blood and the scares are pointless.

The downsides? I guess I thought the lead character, Jun-oh, was kind of flat in the beginning parts of the film. Still, as time went on, he showed that he could rise to the occasion. It was also fun watching him be the helpless victim. So I guess this was the trade-off.

My final word: Being that this DVD was only made English-friendly through the use of English subtitles, I feel this title was targeted more for the horror buffs who enjoy Asian horror and don’t mind watching the original audio with English subtitles. The only thing I’m afraid of at this point is that Hollywood will produce a really bad remake of this film, as they’ve done so well with many others in the horror genre. My plea to you, Hollywood: PLEASE, DON’T!! Still, for those of you so-called horror buffs who are only interested in the U.S. mainstream, why not give Asian horror a try? What have you got to lose? It’s not going to hurt you. If anything, you may gain a new appreciation for horror. I would challenge you to try it – once. I’ll throw “Black House” your way, or any of the other titles I’ve mentioned up above. Again, what have you got to lose?

Video

The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen format (2.35:1 ratio). A chapter selection menu is presented for those of you who want to go to a particular scene or timeframe in the film. From the start of the film, you can already tell that Genius Products did a great job on the transfer. The film seems to be set in dismal surroundings, as the colors look dull. This is not as a result of the transfer. It makes me wonder if this is what the filmmakers were looking for when created this film. This is more of the scenery in which the film was shot. There are no noticeable defects such as DVD grain or pixels. As for actual grain itself, this is used during flashback scenes.

Audio

The film features a Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack only. There are optional English subtitles available for both the film and the extras. For those of you who appreciate extreme Asian horror, you’re probably not going to care one way or another whether or not a dubbed English audio track is present or not. ’Cause chances are you’re going to be utilizing the original audio track anyway. When it comes to the 5.1 audio itself, you can hear all of the sounds as if you were right there in the movie. In one scene where a car went zooming by, I heard it all throughout the room. Even the music can be heard as such. And a dog just showed up in a foul mood – I’M WIDE AWAKE NOW! Once again, these just go to show why surround sound is a necessity when you’re watching DVDs, ESPECIALLY if you’re a horror buff – like moi.

Extras

This disc includes two featurettes and deleted scenes that make up the extras presented. Note: The extras contain spoilers. Do NOT watch them before watching the film. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

The featurette "The Truth About Psychopaths: The Making of Black House" runs 20 minutes and 59 seconds. The director talks about making the movie from a book, which was condensed from 400 pages into 110 minutes. He talks briefly about psychopaths. You get some behind-the-scenes shooting. He also talks about casting the film as far as his three leads. When it comes to the actors, you get comments from Jeong-Min Hwang (Jun-oh) and Yoo Seon (Shin Yi-Hwa).

The production design featurette is entitled "The Secrets of Black House" and runs 7 minutes and 13 seconds. The director starts out talking about what worlds his three main characters represent. Then Art Directors Cho Hwa-Sung and Jung Jum-Suk talk about their experiences in creating the sets and how they decided to handle the scenes. You also see some concept drawings of some of the sets.

There are 10 deleted scenes. There are no selections for them, so I’ll have to write them as I see them. Fortunately, they are separated by chapter stops. They are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen format and have timecode. Here they are in greater detail:

- "Scene 1" runs for 1 minute 51 seconds, you just see some of the scenery of the inside of the tell-tale house.
- "Scene 2" runs for 2 minutes 34 seconds, Jun-oh rushes to catch his elevator. He decides to take the stairs when he sees how crowded it is. Slowly, but surely, he makes it to his first day on the job.
- "Scene 3" runs for 31 seconds, a female co-worker is explaining some policy to clients.
"Scene 4" runs for 1 minutes 34 seconds, this is an extended scene of Jun-oh standing outside the tell-tale house. When Park Choong-Bae lets him in, he tends to his dog.
- "Scene 5" runs for 58 seconds, an autopsy doctor is talking to a detective about some of his findings.
- "Scene 6" runs for 44 seconds, you see Shin Yi-Hwa watching her son’s cremation.
- "Scene 7" runs for 2 minutes 20 seconds, an extended scene in which Shin Yi-Hwa tells Jun-oh to go into Bo-Hun’s room and hide until her husband, Park Choong-Bae, goes to the toilet. When confronted, Jun-oh makes up a lie.
- "Scene 8" runs for 2 minutes 10 seconds, an extended scene in which Jun-oh breaks into Park Choong-Bae’s house to find Mina. Just more of him looking around.
- "Scene 9" runs for 5 minutes 41 seconds, Jun-oh stands in his trashed apartment. Then it cuts to him at the hospital into an extended scene where he has the final confrontation with the killer. You see much footage that was cut out, mostly spoken dialogue before the killer is revealed.
- "Scene 10" runs for 1 minute 53 seconds, Jun-oh and a female employee rush to catch the elevator. He plays a joke on her by pushing her out. He is then at his cubicle. Then it cuts to an outtake of Park Choong-Bae feeding the dog only to have the dog snap at him.

Overall

The Film: A Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A- Overall: A

 


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