South Korea has definitely become a key player in certain film genres.
It has succeeded big-time in producing excellent, claustrophobic ghost films such as Sorum [aka Goosebumps] (South Korea-2001, dir. Jong-Chan Yun), Phone [aka Pon] (South Korea-2002; dir. Byeong-ki Ahn), The Uninvited [aka Sainnyong Siktak] (South Korea-2002, dir. Su-Yeon Lee), A Tale of Two Sisters [aka Janghwa, Hongryeon] (South Korea-2003; dir. Ji-woon Kim), Spider Forest [aka Geomi sup] (South Korea-2004, dir. Il-gon Song), The Red Shoes [aka Bunhongsin] (South Korea-2005; dir. Yong-gyun Kim) and many more. Though Korean giant monster films aren’t as common, it did give us The Host [aka Gwoemul] (South Korea-2006; dir. Joon-ho Bong) — and we might want to count the less-successful but undeniably spectacular D-War [aka Dragon Wars] (South Korea-2006; dir. Hyung-rae Shim) and the new giant pig horror Chaw (South Korea-2009; dir. Jeong-won Shin) as well.
But what about disaster films? With Emmerich’s über-apocalyptic epic 2012 on the horizon, what has Korea to offer in this regard?
The Korean film industry’s attack on Hollywood’s dominance in the field of SFX-heavy disaster films began in July with the release of Haeundae (South Korea-2009; dir. Je-gyun Yun) in its home country, where it became more than the most expensive Korean film ever made, breaking box-office records, out-performing Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and only being exceeded in tickets sold by Bay’s mega-robot trashfest Transformers 2.
Its success perhaps lies in scenes such as these (click on them for full effect):
From all reports, however, while the SFX are spectacular and seeing South Korea’s most famous holiday resort trashed by a giant wave is no doubt a big drawcard, it is the human drama (tinged with comedy) that has endeared the film to its key audience. As the poster above and the trailer below suggest, the approach taken is a very humanistic one and it is the audience’s ability to care about what’s going on that makes a film more than a passing visual confection — something that Hollywood blockbusters have too often forgotten of late.
Anyway, Haeundae has just opened in the US, riding the coat-tails of its hometown tsunami-ing of the box-office in South Korea. It will be interesting to see how it fares.
SciFi Japan has just posted a comprehensive and typically insightful examination of the film’s genesis, development and prospects, with lots of pictures.