Tuesday, January 4, 2022


Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018) d. Beom-sik Jeong (South Korea) (95 min)

Inspired by a real-life article written for CNN Travel, wherein the Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital was tapped as among “the freakiest places around the world,” writer/director Jeong and co-writer Sang-min Park aim fairly low on the creativity scale with this found-footage exploitation piece. The premise is simplicity itself: “Horror Times” is a web-series that seeks out strange and unusual locations, sending its camera crew in, along with “special guests,” to check them out and record their findings. The GPH is next up on the list. They prepare. They go in. Bad things happen. The crowd goes wild.

Yes, it’s basically The Blair Witch Project all over again, complete with actors’ names being the same as their characters, only presented as happening “live” and employing a multi-camera format. On the one hand, the tried-and-true formula doesn’t earn many points for originality; on the other it still manages to create a decent amount of tension, with a final act that features several memorable sequences that each earned a gold star and a nod of approval from this viewer.

The characters are thinly drawn and nearly interchangeable, with the exception being our “director” (Seung-wook Lee) stationed back at HQ literally running the show from afar, but the actors all scream loud and long which does generate a certain frisson. (I couldn’t help but wonder how much more effective this would have been in a theatrical setting with a massive sound system as opposed to watching it on my laptop in the middle of the afternoon.)

Despite being the most financially successful South Korean horror film to date next to A Tale of Two Sisters, at the end of the day, Gonjiam is just another efficiently made found-footage offering, one that does exactly what it sets out to do. 

I don't think anyone will regret having spent their 90 minutes, with the knowledge that mileage will vary depending on individual tolerance for shaky-cam and exposure to the first-person subgenre.


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