ContactSales: CJ Entertainment, Seoul ([email protected])
Theatrical release: South Korea, 27 Jun 2013.
Presented by CJ Entertainment (SK). Produced by Filma Pictures (SK), Line Film (SK). Executive producer: Jeong Tae-seong. Producers: Lee Sang-hak, Song Gi-yun, Han Man-taek.
Script: Lee Sang-hak. Novel: Lee Hu-gyeong. Photography: Lee Jung-bae. Editing: Kim Mi-ju. Music: Choi Yong-rak. Art direction: Gang So-yeong. Sound: Lee Seong-jun. Action: Gwon Gwi-deok. Visual effects: Kim Min-seon (Digital Studio 2L). Webcomics: Song Seon-chan, Kim Dae-il.
Cast: Lee Shi-yeong (Gang Ji-yun), Eom Gi-jun (Lee Gi-cheol, the detective), Hyeon-u (Kim Yeong-su, the young detective), Mun Ga-yeong (Jo Seo-hyeon), Gwon Hae-hyo (Jo Seon-gi, the embalmer), Kim Do-yeong (Seo Mi-suk/Michelle), Kim Hae-eun (female detective), Kim So-yeon (Mi-jin), Oh Yun-hong (Seon-gi's wife), Lee Do-yeop (coroner), Jeon Su-a (Mi-suk's mother), Kim Gyeong-shik (neighbourhood man), Kim Ji-yeong (young Seo-hyeon), Yeom Ji-yeong (female reporter), Oh Gwang-rok (Gi-cheol's chief), Kim So-hyeon (young Mi-suk), Lee Yong-nyeo (Ji-yun's psychiatrist), Lee Sang-hun (internet reporter), Seo Jin-won (editor-in-chief), Mun Il-ok (TV chat-show host).
Killer Toon 더 웹툰 예고살인
2013, colour, 1.85:1, 103 mins
Directed by Kim Yong-kyoon (김용균 | 金容均)
By Derek Elley
Sat, 07 December 2013, 12:30 PM (HKT)
Tightly-packed blend of horror and whodunit is entertaining enough on a pulp level. Asian and genre events.
Seoul, the present day. Popular manga creator Gang Ji-yun (Lee Shi-yeong), who became an instant success a year ago with her History of Lunacy (狂氣의歴史), emails her latest work, The Black Veil (검은면사포), to her editor at Daum Webcomics, Seo Mi-suk (Kim Do-yeong). Working late in the office on her own, Mi-suk reads the manga and finds that it describes secret details of her past life... as well as her violent death that same night, apparently by a ghostly presence. Investigating the case next day, detective Lee Gi-cheol (Eom Gi-jun) and his young assistant Kim Yeong-su (Hyeon-u) initially ascribe Mi-suk's death to suicide, until they find Ji-yun's manga on her computer. Visited by the detectives, Ji-yun, who's been ordered to rest by her psychiatrist (Lee Yong-nyeo) due to recurrent nightmares and blackouts, is shocked by their news. Subsequently, both she and the detectives separately realise that her earlier manga, Embalmer Jo (염쟁이 조氏), also forecasts an imminent murder. Ji-yun rushes to the mortuary of a police hospital to save funeral home owner Jo Seon-gi (Gwon Hae-hyo) but is unable to prevent the murder, apparently by the ghost of Seon-gi's wife (Oh Yun-hong). Finding Ji-yun with his body, Gi-cheol arrests her but she denies any involvement in the murder. However, she does admit that, after the success of History of Lunacy which led to a lucrative contract with Daum, she got writer's block, which was only resolved when she received an anonymous email one day with drawings of murders that re-inspired her. The police trace the sender's IP address to a now-derelict, reputedly haunted building called Happy Mansion. They also discover that five years ago, when she was a struggling manga artist, Ji-yun lived there, and befriended a disturbed, abandoned young woman called Seo-hyeon (Mun Ga-yeong), who drew murderous pictures on the walls. Then, out of the blue, while having dinner with Gi-cheol, Ji-yun receives a text message from Seo-hyeon, asking to meet her again.
A horror-cum-crime mystery centred on a manga artist whose works exactly forecast a series of murders, Killer Toon 더 웹툰 예고살인 is a busy 100 minutes of plotting, atmosphere and directorial sleight-of-hand that pushes its luck in the final stages but is gripping enough on a pulp level. The script by producer LEE Sang-hak 이상학 — based on a novel by LEE Hu-gyeong 이후경 — ties itself up in ever-complex knots to resolve a story that still basically doesn't make sense. However, that problem hasn't stopped most other South Korean horror films from being entertaining on a throwaway level, and the tightly paced direction by KIM Yong-kyoon 김용균 | 金容均 doesn't leave much time for the audience to consider the plot holes while the movie is running. Kim's previous three features range from the graceful romantic drama Wanee & Junah 와니와 준하 (2001) through the above-average horror The Red Shoes 분홍신 (2005) to the okayish costume swordplay The Sword with No Name 불꽃처럼 나비처럼 (2009).
Toon helped to revive the South Korean tradition of summer horror movies by becoming the first of its kind to sell over 1 million tickets since Death Bell 고死 피의 중간고사 (2008). With its snappy construction (not a single redundant scene) and good performances (which themselves help to lead the viewer astray), it deserves its success and has a slightly fresher feel than many recent Korean horrors. It doesn't, however, leave much emotional trace after the lights have gone up: as a horror movie it doesn't plumb any shocking depths, and as a hybrid of whodunit and ghost movie it doesn't really work in retrospect.
The star of the show should be LEE Shi-yeong 이시영 | 李是英 — South Korea's only actress (Couples 커플즈 (2011), How to Use Guys with Secret Tips 남자사용설명서) who's also a competitive boxer, though you'd never guess it from her looks and physique. In the event, Lee's troubled manga artist doesn't develop much personality beyond pretty-but-scared until the second half, and even then she's out-acted by musicals star EOM Gi-jun 엄기준 | 嗯期准 (Man of Vendetta 파괴된 사나이 (2010)) as the jokey detective who's perpetually bullying his eager-beaver assistant (singer-TV actor Hyeon-u 현우, aka KIM Hyeon-u 김현우 | 金現祐) and is more interested in his promotion than much else. In fact, Eom and Kim's double-act is cleverly used to distract the viewer from the plot-holes and set up an apparent twist later on. Only in the final 10-15 minutes does the plotting become needlessly complicated, and what originally looked like a story that just about made sense with poetic licence doesn't even explain how the two main murders were committed.
Production credits are very smooth throughout, including the multiple morphs between reality and manga images. Clean photography by LEE Jung-bae 이중배 (Mai Ratima 마이 라띠마 (2012)) and the shifting major-minor score by CHOI Yong-rak 최용락 (The Chaser 추격자 (2008), The Sword with No Name) both help to maintain atmosphere. The film's less snappy Korean title means The Webtoon: Notice of Murder.