Gyeongseonghakyoo: Sarajin Sonyeodeul / The Silenced (2015) - Atmospherically engaging mystery drama for a lazy autumn or winter night at home - 6/10 (03/10/16)
''The Silenced'' is an above average mystery drama from South Korea with a few minor horror elements. The plot takes places during the thirties of the last century when the country was occupied by the Japanese. It follows the story of a teenage girl who is transferred to an isolated boarding school. After her mother's untimely death from tuberculosis, her father and his new wife are scared to get infected by the teenage girl whose medical condition is getting more and more critical. She gets various medical treatments at the boarding school and finally seems to recover step by step and ends up standing out as a promising sportswomen who might get the occasion to go to Tokyo with another girl to represent the small school honourably. However, strange things happen at the isolated boarding school. Some pupils disappear from one day to another without leaving any trace behind. Several students seem to be emotionally unstable and react in overtly aggressive ways in seemingly random situations without being able to recall these events later on. When the protagonist starts having strange visions, she wonders whether they are due to her new medication or whether there is more to it than that. Along with a new friend, she tries to uncover the school's gloomy secrets.
This movie convinces with a mysterious and slightly gloomy atmosphere from start to finish. This is due to the intriguing settings including the isolated boarding school itself, a secret room in the basement and an old forest with a mysterious pond. The authentic traditional costumes, mostly dimmed lighting techniques and the calm and mysterious score add to the gripping atmosphere. Another winning element are the few and cleverly integrated horror parts consisting of strange emotional outbursts of several characters, the protagonist's continuous nightmares and visions and the emotionally and physically brutal conclusion. The movie doesn't have any particular lengths and develops a coherent flow that is slightly slow in the opening twenty minutes, keeps a regular pace most of the time and ends up being a little bit faster in the final twenty minutes.
Even though the numerous young actresses are doing a solid job, there isn't anyone that really stands out. Most characters are slightly too exchangeable, pale and shy to get the audience emotionally involved with any of them. Despite a mysterious tone throughout the movie, the film reveals too many hints too quickly which leads to a quite predictable story halfway through the movie where the movie loses some momentum. The ending was a little bit too exaggerated, intense and stereotypical to go with the rest of the film. This is one of the rare films where I prefer the smooth, slow and gloomy first part of a film over the more intense, fast paced and engaging second half.
In the end, fans of South Korean cinema, atmospheric mystery movies and smooth teenage dramas should give this interesting mixture of genres a chance. Those who are expecting a truly original plot, outstanding acting performances or a scary horror film should look elsewhere. This is an entertaining movie for a lazy autumn or winter night at home but nothing more.
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