If paranormal films and ‘80s slasher revivals are the current trend for the horror genre, the short story compilation is the next trend right around the corner, and it is already booming. With the likes of V/H/S and the ABC’s of Death being two main projects, and both have already inspired sequels. It’s no surprise that Korea is tapping into this returning subgenre as well.
The only fair way to judge a short story compilation is to judge each film on its own merits, and then as an overall package. Horror Stories is made up of four short stories from five famous Korean horror directors. These are then connected by another story, directed by a sixth famous Korean director.
The film opens with a young girl being held captive by a crazy man. He tells her that he will let her go if she can help him fall asleep, but the only way he falls asleep is if he gets scared enough to do so. That is seriously the over-arching plot, connecting our four short stories. I get it, and it’s a “good” way to connect them, but it makes zero sense. This is probably the weakest aspect of the film itself, but the performances are solid, and there are some nice gore effects at one point.
The first story she tells him is Don’t Answer The Door, which tells of a little boy and girl, both ten years old or under, home alone one night when a stranger comes to the door. This is a great way to start the film. It lets you know the characters before they get home, gives you a small glimpse into their life, and then brings on the assault. It has some great tension, mostly stemming from slow motion shots, and the fact that our characters are so young.
There are a few missteps along the way, though. Any scenes containing a lot of black look terrible, and this aspect is shared throughout the rest of the DVD, which is a shame. There’s also a twist midway through that is just terrible and nonsensical. Thankfully, the final few moments are great, and really turn things around.
Our second film is also our weakest, entitled Endless Flight. A serial killer escapes police custody on an otherwise empty flight. See the problem there? There can’t be any great tension or character building due to the confined space and lack of characters. It makes each little scenario implausible. The cast does a fine enough job, and the gore is fairly tame, but there is a ton of blood all over the place.
Much like the first short story, this one contains the exact same kind of twist. Is it a running theme or what? It makes even less sense in the context of this film, and really takes away from the little enjoyment I got out of it.
The third short, called Secret Recipe, almost brings things back to the better end of the spectrum. It’s based on a Korean fairytale about two stepsisters who take plastic surgery to the extreme (or so says the back of the DVD cover). One sister is dating a rich gentleman, and she becomes engaged. Her stepsister is jealous, so she starts to get plastic surgery to look like her sister. I won’t ruin the twists and turns, but there aren’t many, and it’s vaguely predictable. The gore is gross at times and there are a few great scenes sprinkled in, including the opening, which sees a woman in a bridal gown being dragged in blood. It’s a very strong image.
The fourth and final short takes place during a zombie outbreak. It opens inside an ambulance, as a little girl lies dying on the table. The mother swears the child is bitten/infected. What happens is paranoia in a tight space. This one is a lot of fun, and it left me guessing. There’s a lame dream sequence, which makes no sense, but the gore and zombies are a lot of fun. At one point the ambulance is running over zombies left and right and it’s so brutal that it becomes almost comical.
Horror Stories is a fairly decent anthology set. The over-arching plot is rather terrible, and there’s one weak short (Endless Flight). None of the shorts are creepy except the first one, which reminded me of You’re Next, but with very small children instead of adults. The common K-horror theme that pops up for no reason in the shorts is a shame, but it doesn’t hurt the film too much. If you’re into K-horror then give Horror Stories a shot. Otherwise, it probably won’t be your cup of tea.
The film is in Korean with English subtitles. The subtitles are white, and not intrusive to the film itself. I noticed no problems with the sound quality, as everything was crisp and clear.
The film is in 2.35:1 aspect ration, according to the box. I find that the DVD itself offers very poor quality during the night and/or dark scenes, and is often grainy or fuzzy in nature. This takes away from the film at times.
The DVD comes with a reversible cover, which I prefer over the original cover because it shows the “bride” being dragged through a bloody hall. There is also a twelve-page collectable booklet, which has interviews with the directors about their films, and some of the cast members. All of these interviews are in English, and offer some still shots between the text. Everything is easy to read, except the last interview, which is a light, tan-like color on a black backdrop.
There is also a nine-minute cast interview where the same three questions are asked of one actor from each film. It is nothing really worth watching, but it’s there.
This DVD was released by Artsploitation Films on October 8, 2013. Horror Stories (2012) was written and directed by Beom-sik Jeong, Gok Kim, Sun Kim, Dae-wung Lim, Kyu-dong Min, and Ji-Yeong Hong. The film is 108 minutes in length, and is not rated. Cinefessions was provided a DVD copy of the film for review from Artsploitation Films.