Director: Huh Jung
Release: 15 November 2017 (Sheffield, LKFF’s touring programme), TBC 2018
From: Arrow Films
Format: Theatrical Release
Age Rating: 15
Korean horror has seen a resurgence in recent years, with films like The Wailing, Train to Busan, and -arguably- The Handmaiden terrifying audiences in the past year alone. The trend of gripping horror continues this year with Huh Jung’s paranormal thriller The Mimic, which stars veteran Korean horror actress Yum Jung-ah and rising child star Shin Rin-ah. Jung-ah plays Hee-yeon, a damaged mother who still suffers from guilt and desperation following her son’s disappearance five years earlier, while Rin-ah plays the otherworldly replacement for the lost child.
Hee-yeon discovers the terrified girl in the woods near her new home, having gone there to investigate an ominous cave with her husband at the request of two local children. She’s drawn to the child, who refuses to speak or be touched, and knows that she wants to help her in some way. So, when the girl appears at her window one night, she decides to let the girl into the house and, soon after, her family life. The child, who can mimic any voice she hears, adopts the name Joon-hee after Hee-yeon’s real daughter (played by Bang Yu-seol), and a spate of dark events makes it apparent that there’s more to this girl than meets the eye.
The film is laced with an unsettling tension that’s hard to shake, and within the first few scenes the terror creeps up on you as Huh Jung’s use of a less-is-more style of filmmaking leaves your imagination to conjure up the worst kinds of nightmares. The way he applies darkness, distressed disembodied voices and jump scares into the film adds to this unnerving atmosphere, so much so that when it’s time for the supernatural being to make its appearance Huh Jung’s creation doesn’t disappoint. The final arc serves most of the terror, and his choice of setting also ensures that the film’s climax feels exhilaratingly claustrophobic.
It’s the central performances from Yum Jung-ah and eight-year-old Shin Rin-ah that really makes the film such a success, though. Their portrayal of two broken characters is absolutely captivating and it’s because of their acting skills that the narrative grips us so. Jung-ah presents a stunningly nuanced performance as Hee-yeon, she uses an array of emotions to bring her character to life and her emotional breakdowns of a mother destroyed by the loss of her son is especially moving. Shin Rin-ah is a worthy partner for her, matching her pace and giving a performance that makes her seem mature beyond her years. She has a powerful aura on screen, and she carries herself in such a way that it’s obvious that this girl is going to be a star, she’s just that good.
The Mimic continues the trend of intensely good horror films coming out of South Korea over the past few years. It features an unnerving storyline as well as some stunning performances from its two leads, showcasing their talent and proving their capability onscreen. Huh Jung’s tantalizing cinematography and use of sound also helps make the film creep up on you, ensuring that it stays in your mind long after it’s over.
Written by Roxy Simons