Tartan Video // 2004 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // November 4th, 2005
Looks can kill...
Tartan Films really dropped the ball with Face, but if they have to screw up somewhere, it might as well be on one of the crappy, retread thrillers that Korea has been pumping out in the past few years.
As the film producers in South Korea always seem up to trying out genre pictures, Face is an attempt to combine the serial killer thriller with supernatural horror.
Hyun-min (Hyeon-jun Shin, Bichunmoo) is a brilliant but troubled expert in facial reconstruction. He is helping the police in a case involving a serial killer that burns the flesh from his victims using strong acid. He is getting tired of the case and wants more time with his daughter, who had a heart transplant the previous year and has started having terrible nightmares and visions. He begins to have similar visions of the ghosts of young women.
It becomes up to Seon-yeong Jeong (Yun-ah Song) to convince him to return and look at the latest skull. It soon becomes a race against time as the police investigation points toward the heart surgeon who performed the heart transplant on Hyun-min's daughter.
Sometimes, genres shouldn't be combined. Face had some potential, but falls apart because of its unholy blend of psychology and the supernatural. The police investigation of the killings is well handled, and they quickly move toward the source of the killings (since it really isn't much of a mystery). The facial reconstruction is fascinating as well, and would appeal to the same audience that flocks to episodes of CSI each week. The film works toward a convergence of these two investigations, and had both of these stories been fleshed out more and the characters given more depth, the film could have been a lot more interesting. My biggest complaint with the serial killer aspect of the movie is the weakly written motivation behind the killer's actions. It is explained, though it doesn't seem like a strong enough reason to kidnap healthy young girls, cut them apart, then melt them with acid.
The supernatural elements of the story, particularly those involving (once again) young Asian girls with long hair covering their faces, muddles everything up. The ghosts are used as a way to get around some problems in the story, so that Hyun-min can be led directly to the next part of his investigation. They don't really play into the ultimate resolution of the story, and add nothing except some cheap jump moments.
While Face's performances and cinematography are well done, it has nothing that hasn't been done better elsewhere. The actors do what's necessary and nothing more, looking scared at the appropriate times. The eerie ghost moments are creepy, but they are more annoying than anything. They keep interrupting what could have been a decent story, and are so obviously telegraphed that they won't work on horror movie veterans.
To make matters worse, this is the weakest disc I have ever seen from Tartan Films. The video transfer is soft and muddy, with some ugly ghosting and a general lack of shadow detail. I've seen a lot of Korean films produced in the past few years, and none of them have looked like this. The sound is even worse. Like most of Tartan's releases, there is an option of stereo, Dolby 5.1, and DTS 5.1 tracks. In this case, the stereo track is your best bet. It's a pretty generic track, but the sound stage is reasonable and the dialogue is clear. Both 5.1 tracks simply run mono through all five channels. It sounds awful, and both tracks should be avoided at all costs.
There are some extras on the disc, including interviews with the director and cast. They are standard interviews, offering no reasons for the disappointing results. There are also a few outtakes, which are really just behind-the-scenes footage of the shooting. These shots are coupled with a production featurette, which actually shows the characters in a photo shoot.
I see no reason to check out Face. Even if you enjoy Asian horror and psychological thrillers, this effort to combine them have just resulted in a film that handles both genres poorly. The crappy transfer just makes matters worse. With so many great films from Asia each year, this is one that you can skip.
Although it had some potential, Face is very guilty and sentenced to life without parole.
Review content copyright © 2005 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Tartan Video
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Korean)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Korean)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Korean)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Production Featurette