Genius Products // 2007 // 103 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 18th, 2008
There's no place like home...to die!
This Korean horror import reveals a new genre protagonist: the insurance agent.
An insurance agent (Hwang Jung-Min) is assigned to a suicide case, the hanging death of a young child. But when he meets the crackpot father, he begins to think that there might be more to this case than a simple suicide.
No, he thinks that the dad might have murdered his kid to he could land the fat, multi-million dollar insurance policy payout. So he makes it his mission to get to the bottom the scheme and ensure that zero money is dished out to a killer.
But as he digs deeper and deeper, the startling truth reveals itself and his loved ones will get sucked into the nightmare, forcing him to brave the titular "Black House" and the horrors that lie within.
On paper, a horror thriller about an inquisitive insurance agent sounds like it could be all kinds of lame, but in practice Black House works. Despite the title and the way the film's plot is marketed on the back of the disc, this is not a movie about a haunted house. It's a straightforward slasher film, with a touch of mystery and just a wee bit of torture porn tossed in for good measure.
All these aspects are effective and the result is an import shocker I won't hesitate to recommend. Let's take a closer look at these three elements:
* The Slasher
Black House has a great villain. I don't think I'll be spoiling the plot too heavily to say that the bad guy isn't who you first think it is. I'll go as far as saying the monster-of-the-week is a woman, but that's all I'll offer. Anyway, this girl is a psycho you-know-what-I'm-talking-about and cannot only dish out the pain but take it as well. Toward the end, when our insurance hero enters the titular house and starts farting around in the cellar, this girl shows up and the two engage in a hugely bloody struggle.
Plus, she's completely whacked. Her schemes to cash in on insurance policies often lead to disturbing visions of limb-loss...but more on that later.
* The Mystery
Yeah I gave up some of the shock value in the preceding paragraph, but the procedural points are intriguing and add to the suspense. Our fearless agent is tenacious in his attempts to unravel the story of the murdered child and the script's deftness in keeping the plot moving quickly pays off when the horror hits.
* The Torture Porn
And it hits pretty hard. Black House may not blow the minds of gorehounds, but there was enough creative bloodshed to make me squirm and I've seen my share of onscreen slayings. Special props have to be given to the eye wounds. Watching traumatized eyeballs has always been a sensitive subject for your humble reviewer and the optical mayhem that transpires here rivals even that of Zombi 2 and its door-jamb impaling glory.
Black House looks great in its 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors and detailing are both uniformly sharp throughout. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track (Korean) sets the ambient sound well. A good selection of extras accompanies the feature: a robust making-of documentary (subtitled), a shorter production design featurette and generous helping of deleted scenes.
Interesting, suspenseful, scary and sometimes skin-crawling, Black House is this week's Korean insurance fraud horror champ.
Not guilty. You qualify for a fixed low-interest line of home equity.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Korean)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes