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Juno, formerly a bank employee, gets a call on his first day at work from a woman seeking advice. She asks if insurance is paid out on suicides, and only after hanging up does he see the warning on the insurance agreement. A few days Juno receives a request for a meeting with an unknown policy holder. From the living room of a decrepit house Juno opens the door to the bedroom to see a seven-year-old hanging from the ceiling. Police start an investigation, but the autopsy and all the evidence points to suicide. But Juno can't shake his suspicions that the incident was actually a murder. Believing that insurance, which should protect lives, cannot be seen to promote murder, he withholds payment. There is evidence of other serial murders, and a secret lying inside company records in storage. Where is the truth? And what is the true nature of the Black House? Written by
By the title of my review, you might think I would chide films for imitating Hollywood out of some sort of reverence for the latter, but that couldn't be farther from the truth as Black House's imitation is its ultimate downfall. Being a fan of Korean cinema and having seen the original film (Kuroi Ie from Japan), I was disappointed to find that director Shin Terra basically removed the deeper aspects of psychology from the story and chose instead to focus on developing the plot along in the most basic of manners.
At the beginning of the film, insurance agent Jun-oh is drawn into a complex web of death, dismemberment, and deceit as he suspects the apparent suicide of a client's son was not suicide at all. What would seem like simple insurance fraud grows into something much more sinister as Jun-oh encounters a true psychopath. But where the film goes wrong is in focusing on Jun-oh and his generic, last-minute back story rather than on the nature of a psychopath. Let's face it, Jun-oh the character is not interesting in the least. He goes through no changes throughout the film and his immovable belief in humanity at the end of the film is all the more laughable and ridiculous after the graphic horrors he witnesses. Sure, as you say, the killer is just like you. They just like to rip the heads off of dogs and cut people into little pieces. But they're just like you. Where Kuroi Ie goes right in this aspect is first depicting the psychopath from the very beginning of the film. You know who you're dealing with, so the whole movie carries a tense atmosphere. Black House, on the other hand, chooses to go the red herring route with an oh-so-obvious red herring and oh-so-obvious culprit. The ultimate revelation for Jun-oh is neither surprising nor shocking. Kuroi Ie scores here in a second manner by depicting the psychopath with a true disconnect, a real sense of going through life without a care, rather than as a bland and boring caricature TRYING to act like a psychopath.
In the end, Black House tries to differentiate itself from the stale output of vengeful ghost films, but it falls instead into the generic thriller camp. Too stupid to be scary, and too boring to be intelligent. Couple all that with a cheesy, tacked-on ending about the cycle of violence and you've got yourself the worst kind of film - one that thinks its being artsy.
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