July 19, 2010

Wide Awake (2007)

(AKA Ri-teon)

"Due to inadequate use of anaesthetics, a young boy experiences intra-operative awareness during his own heart surgery, hearing every sound and movement of the procedure. The little boy is severely traumatised from this horrific accident. As a result, he ends up brutally murdering a young girl soon after the incident..."

I'm hardly the biggest fan of Korean movies. I think I've only ever seen one other and that was "The Host". However, if they continue with the same high quality then I may well be watching a few more of them.

I actually got "Wide Awake" from Big Lots thinking it was another $3 horror movie. Although I obviously got it confused with the American film with a similar title and subject matter, after the initial disappointment of not seeing Jessica Alba's name anywhere, I decided to give it a chance. I'm glad I did.

"Wide Awake" (or "Return" as the IMDb calls it) isn't really a horror movie though it does contain a few gory operation scenes and has a serial killer in it. I suppose you could call it a "medical crime thriller" if you wanted to be pedantic and find some way of categorising it. Whatever the genre, it's a neat little film though slightly confusing at times. There are one or two twists which I didn't see coming (but then I hardly ever do) although I did actually work out who the bad guy was quite early on.

What confused me the most was all the names of the characters. I could barely read them, let alone say them, so even for a clever guy like me it was a struggle to work out who was who. It's probably best to just rename everyone in your own head as and when they appear, write them down or even, unlike me, pay more attention to what you are watching. I'm not going to fall into the trap of saying that all Asians look alike because they really don't in this film but their names are confusing as hell to us Westerners.

Anyway, although I'm also at a loss to judge the acting from the dialogue, it seemed quite good to me. It might be absolutely atrocious but I was reading subtitles so it didn't matter. I think the doctor who was the centre of the story might be a very good actor but none of them exuded Oscar winning material to me. They were all a bit ordinary looking too which makes me think they were probably soap stars or TV actors but I really don't know for sure.

The story itself was nicely paced with not too many flashbacks. Unfortunately it really needed a few more flashbacks to fill in the relationships between the main characters. Although that does add a little bit more to the mystery of who the killer actually is now that he has grown up, it didn't explain who knew who or from where.

Of course what everyone really wants to see in a film like this is some gore. There was no disappointment in that department with several operation scenes and a bit of animal cruelty involving baby chickens. With this being a Korean film, I can't honestly say if the chicken deaths were real or not. At least nothing bad happened to a cat.

The murder scenes were alright for what they were. One was more ingenious than the others and there was a bit of gunfire and some woundings which seemed slightly fake later on. I'm not sure what to make of them since the rest of the film had more realism but they were adequate. The deaths were generally very realistic and the effects were good. I don't think they had an enormous budget but this was certainly not a "handycam and ketchup" movie.

It's probably a Korean thing that a lot was made of family and friendships when it came to the motivation of what any of the characters did. The motivation of the little boy who grows up to be a serial killer seems simplistic to start with until you later find out that there was a lot more to it. Unlike a Michael Myers, you can actually feel some sympathy for this killer. His motivation is revenge rather than pure psychosis and that always makes a story like this more interesting. The film is constructed so that you feel a lot more sympathy for his victims though.

I was quite impressed with the doctor's wife. She reminded me a lot of Sun from "Lost" (who is also supposed to be Korean I think) mainly in acting style if not also looks. If not the same character, they could well be sisters if you want to really think about it. I was hoping there would be some sexiness along the way but it wasn't necessary to the plot so it never happened. I can imagine an American remake throwing some in though to create a much bigger red herring concerning the wife's fidelity than the one that actually occurs.

Although it's possible to argue that some of "Wide Awake" was pretty formulaic stuff for a thriller, I actually found it to be quite original. I don't watch many films outside of the horror genre and I don't really think that this one was actually too far outside of it either. It was the best film that I've seen so far this weekend but, since it's only just become Saturday now, there are a lot more DVDs for me to watch yet. I'd class "Wide Awake" as slightly about average. It could have been a lot better but it was still quite good.

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