The Red Shoes (Bunhongsin) (2005)

One size kills all.
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The Red Shoes (Bunhongsin) - One Size Kills All

South Korean director Kim Yong-gyun manages to put atmospheric and creepy back into the Asian horror template with a sinister movie interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale "The Red Shoes". Despite the story revolving around a pair of pink shoes (to which all characters refer to as red) the movie borrows heavily from the morbid children's story and expands this into everything you would expect from a Korean horror, with a Western twist to finish. The Red Shoes brings the fairytale into the real world, unlike Hansel and Gretel which borrows very heavily off of fantasy, making this a much more macabre viewing experience. The movie exploits vanity as the device to motivate the chilling behaviour from the minimal cast and exhibits a dark and secluded satire based around the common mental illness, referred to in medical circles as "Shoe Obsession Affliction (SOA)", recently discovered to affect 14 out of 10 female sufferers of personality disorders.*

The original story is grim enough detailing the red shoe wearing dismembered feet of a vain child dancing in the church doorway to prevent said girl, now wooden footed, from entering to give prayer. This part of the story is integrated into the movie by way of flashbacks to the original owner of the shoes succumbing to the choreomania inflicted by the vengeful spirit now possessing the sought after footwear. Over the decades the shoes have tracked down and destroyed any vain females exhibiting the same obsessive possessive tendencies and have successfully proved that all Korean women have the same size feet.

The Red Shoes (Bunhongsin) is set in Seoul and revolves around Sun-jae and her young daughter Tae-soo. Sun-jae has recently left her disrespectful and philandering husband and escaped to the city with her distraught daughter to start a new life with her shoe collection. It is traditional in Korea to leave unwanted shoes on the train and Sun-jae luckily finds a pair of red (pink) shoes that fit like a glove (if gloves were made for feet). With the new found confidence that her new found shoes endow she sets off into the big wide world to make a better life for her and her child.

The shoes seem to enamour all that see them and soon life becomes full of bitchiness for Sun-jae as everybody wants a bit of the good life that the shoes offer. Unfortunately whoever steals or borrows the shoes encounters tragedy, and often a sharp pain below the knees, as the shoes make their way back to Sun-jae's apartment.

Fearing for the safety of her daughter in the presence of the boomerang shoes, Sun-jae enlists the help of her interior designer (after the customary intercourse expected by all interior designers) to help solve the mystery of the red (pink) shoes and prove her mental stability once and for all.

The standout performance is from Park Yeon-ah who plays the young daughter with early onset shoe obsession affliction. She convincingly portrays a troubled and neurotic child while taking a battering for the camera and witnessing scenes that will probably traumatise her for the majority of her adult life.

The atmosphere remains tense and unnerving throughout the movie although a few choice cuts could have been made to maintain the pace. The gore is quite shocking when it happens and the tension is expertly raised in these scenes always resulting in a satisfying pay-off even though the majority of the blood is from foot and leg related injuries. This overall tension is heightened by some stunning camera shots and visual effects, such as blurring and speeding up the scenes momentarily to create unease in the viewer and creating empathy for the mental distress of the players in this game of manic materialism.

The traditional Asian ghosts are present but their airtime is minimal and seem to be just thrown into the mix to provide some jump scares and maybe to allude to the mental state of Sun-jae. The beauty of the overall eeriness of The Red Shoes is the combination of the subtle scares that the subconscious processes and the blatant boogeda scares designed to make the viewer skid their underwear.

The movie ends a couple of times but while the second conclusion seems to make a bit too much sense for a Korean horror the previous conclusion would not have been an adequate ending. There is even a little teaser after the credits begin to roll to ensure that the general public should still be wary of abandoned shoes.

The Red Shoes is an atmospheric, scary movie with few yet well-developed characters and a folklore and fairytale back story containing enough evisceration to satisfy the needs of the bloodthirsty.

* Remember that 87.4% of all statistics are made up.
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Categories: Asian Horror Movies
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