First produced on Broadway on January 22,the play was partly a response to the panic caused by irrational fear of Communism during the Cold War which resulted in the hearings by the House Committee on Unamerican Activities. This is simply not history.
They are listed in the order of their release. Suddenly At Midnight Seon-hee, the wife of a wealthy butterfly researcher is pleased to hear that her husband has contracted a new maid. The girl is young and pretty, though she comes with a tragic past: The couple and their daughter welcome the orphaned young woman into their home, but Seon-hee begins to have misgivings later when she sees a strange wooden doll that the maid has brought with her.
For several weeks she has been having nightmares and visions about this very same doll. Korean horror films from the 70s and 80s can be memorable, fascinating, and at times even cute, but they are rarely frightening.
Suddenly At Midnight is an exception. As in Kim Ki-young's The Housemaid and its subsequent remakings, director Ko Young-nam locates the film's horror within the space of a happy, wealthy family home that is contaminated from the outside, but he takes the film in different directions than that pursued by Kim.
The result is a mysterious psychological study built on the wife's suspicions, that beguiles the viewer right up to its bizarre closing image. Director Ko -- Korea's most prolific director ever with films to his credit -- has a good feel for how to create tension from precise editing and the patient accumulation of evocative details.
Actress Kim Young-ae also gives a convincing performance as the panicked wife. Her fears seem plausible, which makes the film all that much more effective. I do get the sense, though, that the final reel which had modern-day audiences jumping in fright could have been even scarier if less slow motion had been used.
On another level, an aspect of the film that is just as unsettling as its horror elements is its voyeuristic focus on the young maid. When the camera isn't in the bathtub with her, it mentally undresses her, peering up her skirt and lingering over her body.
This isn't entirely unmotivated -- the wife's suspicions that her husband covets the maid are a central aspect of the plot. But intentionally or not, this voyeurism makes the film twice as creepy to watch. Suddenly At Midnight is one of those films that seems to have slipped through the cracks.
I was lucky enough to catch it as part of a horror film retrospective curated by the Korean Film Archive, but most people seem to have forgotten it. Nonetheless as people look back through the history of Korean cinema and try to unearth the roots of Korean horror, works like this and Lee Yong-min's A Bloodthirsty Killer will continue to turn up, refuting the notion that Korean filmmakers first learned how to scare people in the late s.
Directed by Ko Young-nam. Screenplay by Yun Sam-yuk. Cinematography by Jeong Pil-si. Produced by Nam-a Jinheung. Rating received on July 6, Released on July 17, Essays Related to Movie Review - Freedom Writers.
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