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Ssunday Seoul
  |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |    
 


Ko Eun-Ha and Bong Tae-Gyu in Ssunday Seoul.
 
Year: 2006  
Director: Park Seong-Hoon  
  Writer: Park Seong-Hoon, Park Ji-Won, Baek Eun-Jin, Kim Hee Yeon
  Cast: Bong Tae-Gyu, Lee Chung-Ah, Jeong So-Nyeo, Kim Chu-Ryeon, Park Seong-Bin, Kim Soo-Hyun, Jeon Jae-Hyung, Yong Yi, Ko Eun-Ah
  The Skinny: Ssunday Soulless is more like it. Although full of promise - engaging actors, interesting situations, and nice production values - this anthology of "Weird Tales" is a muddled, unsatisfactory affair thanks to an inconsistent tone and shoddy scriptwriting. Granted, the film has its moments and the third story itself is almost worth the price of the admission alone, but ultimately, Ssunday Seoul could have been so much more.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      Park Seong-Hoon makes his feature film directorial debut with Ssunday Seoul, which is pretty much a Korean take on a Tales from the Crypt/Twilight Zone-type omnibus film, albeit with a heavier emphasis on humor. Ssunday Seoul is comprised of three short "Weird Tales" with amusing vignettes scattered between them. Each story's premise veers toward the supernatural or the extraordinary, but as much promise as all of these tales possess, Ssunday Seoul fails to deliver the goods.
     The English title of the first main story is "Teen Wolf," which immediately draws connections to the identically-titled 1985 Michael J. Fox werewolf flick Teen Wolf and to a lesser extent, the 1957 Michael Landon film, I Was A Teenage Werewolf. Sadly, neither is surpassed by this Korean re-imagining (or should I say rip-off?). Bong Tae-Gyu stars as Do-Yeon, a meek bully magnet who spends most of his time fantasizing about Ji-Yeon (Ko Eun-Ah), the sexy "bad girl"-type who sits in front of him in class. As can be expected from the short film's title, Do-Yeon finds himself going through all sorts of changes, including sprouting hair in weird places and developing some razor sharp fangs all on his way to full-fledged lycanthropy. Even though using the werewolf as metaphor for puberty is as obvious as it is cliché, if one considers the change of setting to Korea, it seems like a whole lot more could be mined from this well-traveled idea.
     To its credit, "Teen Wolf" adds a romantic twist: just as Do-Yeon learns of his heritage, he also discovers that he can only settle down with another werewolf. This revelation proves disappointing as he only has eyes for Ji-Yeon, but then again, there's something about his dream girl that's a little "off," too - a reveal that will come as a surprise to absolutely no one in the audience. When all is said and done, "Teen Wolf" is an adequate, sometimes amusing interpretation of the werewolf legend, but it falters considerably due to its lack of any substantive conclusion. What happens to Do-Yeon and Ji-Yeon? The film doesn't say, instead settling for an ending that isn't really an ending at all. Even worse, despite what looks to be the beginning of An American Werewolf in London-style metamorphosis, complete with an elongated wolf nose, "Teen Wolf" doesn't even deliver a full-on transformation scene! When Do-Yeon finally "wolfs out" he just has wild anime hair and fangs. Ho hum. Even 1941's The Wolf Mancould do better than that!
     Although the second story, "The Visitor," maintains the supernatural vibe of "Teen Wolf," it's tonally inconsistent, as it is a bit too grim considering the more comedic touch of the other two stories in the anthology. The premise is simple: a serial killer (Park Seong-Bin) makes a pit stop at a spooky-looking house after his car breaks down. Staying true to his nature, he murders the young woman inside. However, he soon discovers that the family is not at all what they seem. "The Visitor" is definitely Tales from the Crypt material in terms of premise. However, as with "Teen Wolf," it's no surprise what happens in the film, and it's a shame the writers didn't play the formula more for laughs. Instead, what you have is a tedious recitation of a horror cliché - a bad guy gets the tables turned on him by supernatural forces - without any innovation whatsoever. Unfortunately, "The Visitor" ends up bringing the film down even further from its so-so beginning.
     Luckily for the filmmakers, the third story is undoubtedly the strongest of the bunch. Entitled "Young Blood Tae-Poong," it stands out in a different way, since it has nothing to do with horror at all - it's a martial arts-infused revenge film. Kim Su-Hyeon plays Tae-Poong, a young man seeking the wisdom of a fabled master of the martial arts in the hopes that he will train him. His mission? To avenge his father's death! Of course, "Young Blood Tae-Poong," like the previous two stories, is a ridiculously clichéd storyline, but director Park actually gets this one right - he milks the formula for every conceivable laugh. Whether it's the exaggerated performances (Tae-Poong's memory/re-enactment of his father's death is hilarious as is his father's nonsensical true identity), the Shaw Brothers parodies, the Kill Billand Spaghetti Western references, or the general likeability of its characters, "Young Blood Tae-Poong" is what the other stories in Ssunday Seoul should have been. Short stories in these types of narratives always contain a twist, but this story is the first one that's actually a fairly funny surprise, although it makes you wish they had more time to develop the budding romance between Tae-Poong and the master's daughter (the charming Lee Chung-Ah). Of all the films, this is the one that had the most potential to be a standalone feature film - an all-out martial arts parody flick that would put Kung Pow: Enter the Fist to shame.
     Ultimately, there's not enough going for Ssunday Seoul for me to give it a recommendation. However, if you're a fan of Shaw Brothers-style revenge flicks, the comic strengths of "Young Blood Tae-Poong" might be enough to merit a look. And despite the lackluster conclusion to "Teen Wolf," Bong Tae-Gyu and Ko Eun-Ah turn in fairly engaging performances. Still, the shoddiness of the scriptwriting and the over-reliance on clichés cannot elevate Ssunday Seoul beyond what it is: a passable diversion on a lazy Sunday. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)
Notes: • The director, staff, film crew, and marketing team agreed to work for free while the film was in production. In return, they received a share of the profits after the film's release.
• The title and concept of the film is based on Sunday Soul, a popular tabloid in the 1970s, which contained gossip, strange stories, and sexually explicit pictures.
Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Art Service Korea
16 x 9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Removable Korean and English Subtitles
Dolby Digital 5.1
Various Extras
   
   
 
 
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