Oct 27, 2008

Death Bell

Death Bell is a newer Korean horror film depicting schoolhouse violence in a similar vein to the Eko Eko Azarak trilogy. The scenes are composed of incredible acting, stylish effects, and a sleek and very clean production value. In other words, your standard Korean film. Of any country's ability to hone their cinema into a specified technical category, the one that never bends the rules is Korea. Sometimes this is a good thing, other times, not so much.

Death Bell starts off just as any other Asian film made in 2008; really confusing with a scrambled plot. These Asian films love to start off in media res just to accentuate how cool and flashy their cinema is. I couldn't be more annoyed. As Death Bell boils into a solid film, we are treated to several small contingencies. These also double as irritating tortures. For one, a really out-of-place disco club scene in which all the Asians dance together waving their fingers around in some post-Saturday Night Fever masquerade. What really drives this scene over the edge is that fact that all the Asians look alike.

As soon as Death Bell (Go-sa) becomes conscious of how convoluted the plot is and how nothing is clicking in the viewer's brain, it throws the obstacle into the film. While students find themselves in what is first believed to be a terrorist attack from a student, they find their student body is threatened when random (or are they?) students are put in death traps and the only resolve is to answer a test problem. This special test will decide the fate of who lives and who dies. All is fine in cinema land until the film turns into a murder mystery.

A throbbing orchestral score preluded with a beautiful opera piece is what drives the powerful requiems of understanding. The death scenes have the same quirks that populate the Saw series. This is also why the Saw series is so looked up to and this is the same reason why most people will really like Death Bell. When I was 3/4th's into the film, I found myself bored of the chases and the time limits. I don't like to be rushed during a film but eventually it all smoothed out into a fine outing of recent suspense/horror.

Death Bell is a rare occurrence; a film that starts off good, goes sour, and then allows its buoyancy to lift it back up to the surface. If not for the creative deaths and well-acted characters, you should at least watch it for the powerful and moving ending that dictates a strict philosophy on revenge. You may get even, but when does the suffering really end? Death Bell gets my recommendation for averaging into a watchable and entertaining film.


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