Review by: Mut Asheru
I spent the first 46 minutes of FIRE IN HELL (directed by Lee Sang-woo) wondering what the “f” was going on. There’s not a lot of dialogue in this indie South Korean film. And the little bit there is does nothing towards advancing the storyline…at least that’s what I thought until the end. Where the payoff is. At the end I was able to decide that I liked it.
Ji-wol (Won Tae-hee), a Buddist monk, is a horny monk that ends up doing thug things. After being banished from the temple (again) for sexual misconduct with a female devotee (after looking at the handsome Won Tae-hee who could blame her?), Ji-Wol returns home and ends up killing a woman he intended to rape. In an effort to make amends he heads to the Philippines to deliver her ashes to her family. There he finds her twin sister Yeon-hwa and is drawn into an affair with her. (again can’t blame her…Tae-hee’s hot)
Sounds simple. My “wtf frown lines” began early on as the film starts in the middle of the plot. Well actually it started with the nice-bodied monk and the female devotee doin the do. Then we flash forward to Ji-Wol running into a girl somewhere in the Philippines in a big house populated with weird-creepy male ex-con types and one weird ass creepy preacher claiming to offer them salvation through the blood of Jesus. Everyone in the film is strange.
An eerie vibe permeates the movie that makes you uncomfortable and before you know it you’re drawn in wanting to know the back-story of the characters. You simply have to discover why they’re so doggone strange and twisted. All the while, you’ve become invested in their outcome while wanting your discomfort to end. Genius.
Shot guerrilla style with minimal dialogue FIRE IN HELL relies more so on camera angles and actor body language, Lee Sang-woo’s FIRE IN HELL is not a pretty film to watch. But it is interesting and has subsequently led me to want to see more of his films. Mission accomplished.
About the Director
With a controversial and often disturbing filmography that includes titles such as Mother is a Whore (2009), Father is a Dog (2010), and Barbie (2011), South Korean film director Lee Sang-woo has earned the nickname “the ogre of Korean independent cinema.” His films have screened at international film festivals from Stockholm and Mumbai to Busan and Hong Kong. Before directing, he worked on the sets of Kim Ki-duk’s Breath (2007) and Time (2006).
|No rating, 99 minutes|
|Director: Lee Sang-woo|
|Cast: Won Tae-hee , Cha Seung-min , Kim Hun|