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The Mimic (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Korea Version)
Yeom Jung Ah (Actor) | Lee Joon Hyuk | Park Hyuk Kwon (Actor) | Huh Jung (Director)
The Mimic (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Korea Version)
This professional review refers to The Mimic (Blu-ray) (Normal Edition) (Korea Version)

Korean writer director Huh Jung returns for the first time since his popular 2013 mystery thriller debut Hide and Seek with The Mimic, a brooding horror revolving around the myth of the Jangsanbum, an evil tiger spirit with the power to imitate human voices. Although things have been quiet on the Korean horror front for a while now, the film won critical acclaim as well as performing well at the local box office, becoming the first genre release to have broken the one million viewers landmark for over four years.

The film opens with Yum Jung-ah (The Spies) and Park Hyuk-kwon (A Taxi Driver) as Hee-yeon and Mi-ho, a married couple who move to a house near the foot of Mount Jang in Busan, still trying to get over the disappearance of their young son five years back. The area is known for the local legend of the Jangsanbum or the Mount Jang Tiger, a sinister entity which mimics human voices to trick its prey before devouring them. A strange young girl appears (child actress Shin Rin-ah, also in the recent Memoir of a Murderer), and after Min-ho breaks into a nearby walled-off cave, sinister voices start to be heard, convincing Hee-yeon that the myth is terrifyingly real.

On paper, The Mimic might sound pretty generic, and the film certainly features many of the tropes of the modern Asian ghost form, right down to the creepy little girl, and does have similarities to a number of K-Horror and J-Horror classics, Hideo Nakata's Dark Water in particular. However, as with Hide and Seek, Huh Jung again shows himself to be an excellent storyteller, and the film successfully walks the fine line between ambiguous slow-burn chills and more visceral shocks, building patiently and suspensefully towards its grim final act. The folklore background is well-implemented, woven carefully into the plot, and the spirit and its powers are put to good use, Huh working in plenty of atmospheric and eerie scenes, and the film is both tense and frightening in places. While some of the scares are telegraphed, there's an overriding sense of doom throughout, and this helps make The Mimic an unsettling viewing experience, far more so than any other recent Korean horrors.

The film is all the more effective for Huh's excellent character writing, and while grieving parents as genre protagonists are always going to be a magnet for supernatural suffering, Hee-yeon and Min-ho are both believably anguished and engaging. Yum Jung-ah and Park Hyuk-kwon are on good form, and the script feels emotional and moving, even its more melodramatic moments serving a purpose – extra points are won for the film's efficient ending, which doesn’t drag things out in the teary fashion of many of its peers. Dealing with themes of guilt and loss, the film has a melancholy air, which Huh marries with the genre elements to accentuate the viewer’s unease, bringing a sad inevitability to the way things play out.

The film also impresses visually, and the beautiful rural scenery takes on a character of its own, bleak and ominous. The mountain forests and caves have a timeless, quietly primal look, and make the film feel almost disconnected from the modern and real world, trapping its characters in a mournful purgatory. Huh has a great sense of shot composition, subtly employing mirrors and reflective symbolism both to disorient the viewer and to further the central concept of mimicry, hinting at the ways in which people can allow themselves to be deceived as a means of hiding from the pain of the truth and of dealing with heartbreak.

As with many of the horror greats, it's this substance which makes The Mimic far more than a simple ghost story, and it’s precisely its multi-layered human elements which give it the ability to scare and get under the skin. Huh Jung takes a concept which in other hands could have been daft or schlocky, and crafts something far more haunting and accomplished, the film standing as one of the best genre efforts from Korea of the last few years.

by James Mudge -

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