Some interesting horror films have been coming out of South Korea over the last couple of years and Tartan Video have been bringing quite a few of them to North American audiences. One of the latest entries from Tartan's Asia Extreme line is Bloody Reunion, (known in its homeland as To Sir, With Love) a somewhat low budget slasher film that delivers the gore you'd expect but which also contains an unexpectedly intelligent plot that helps it rise above the restrictions sometimes associated with the sub-genre.
The movie tells the story of a group of adults in their early twenties who used to be in the same class together where they were taught by Mrs. Park (Mi-hee Oh). Now suffering from a terminal illness that has her confined to a wheelchair and in need of constant help from a caregiver, Mrs. Park wants nothing more than to meet with the children she taught for one last time before she passes on. Life has been difficult for her – years ago she gave birth to a deformed boy who she kept locked up in the basement of her seaside home, and shortly after that happened her husband hanged himself – and this one last reunion would allow her to go out on a high note of sorts.
The former students all show up, each one changed a fair bit since they were kids but still recognizable to one another. Surprisingly enough to most of the attendees, the 'shy kid' who was once picked on for going to the bathroom in his pants also attends. This was unexpected, as he dropped out of school once his mother was hit and killed by a car when they were all much younger than they are now. As the day turns into night the group reminisces and gets caught up with one another, drinking and eating and having a good time until, later that evening, they start disappearing one by one. A deranged killer wearing a bunny mask on his face is stalking the guests and killing them off, but just whose face is behind the mask is a mystery indeed.
Bloody Reunion is, on the surface, a fairly standard slasher movie. Our killer hunts his prey one at a time and brings them back to his basement lair where he uses various creative ways of dismembering and torturing them to eventually end their lives. Underneath the gory set pieces, however, there's more to the film than that. You'll pick up on some of the foreshadowing fairly early on if you pay reasonably close attention to some of the little details in the film, and before you know it the movie is dealing as much with how we tend to repress unfavorable memories from our youth once we reach adulthood and how even the smallest act of cruelty can have a huge effect on the lives of a kid. Of course, there's a big twist at the end and the conclusion is rather ridiculous but getting there is fun and Bloody Reunion turns out to be considerably more intelligent than your average 'masked maniac kills people' slasher film thanks to the little details and snippets of information that we get about these characters' pasts.
With that said, this is a horror movie after all, so does it deliver any scares? There are a few nice jump scenes and some effective building of tension in the last half of the film. The kills are gory, nasty and creative and the special effects are handled quite well. SO yeah, there's definitely enough of the requisite bloody mayhem here to satisfy most genre fans. On top of all that, however, is some genuine emotional tension that makes the movie much more effective than it would have been had it stuck to the tried and true slasher formula. Thankfully Bloody Reunion uses some decent performances and a clever script to rise above slasher film trappings and emerges a smart, scary and interesting film. It's not perfect, and some of the handheld camera work gets dizzying at times, but if you're looking for something outside the norm without journeying too far away from horror movie territory, it's well worth a look.
The 1.85.1 widescreen transfer is anamorphic but there are a few spots where the image is pretty murky looking and some mild compression artifacts are present in darker scenes, obscuring some of the fine detail. Color reproduction is decent but not great though flesh tones look lifelike and natural. There are no problems with edge enhancement to report and only some slight line shimmering present on the picture. Brightness and contrast are fine but there is some mild blurring present during fast motion that obscures things a little bit. A watchable transfer, sure, but not a great one.
Tartan supplies three audio options on this DVD, each one in Korean with optional English or Spanish subtitles: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and DTS 5.1 Surround Sound. The DTS track is the best of the three mixes although the differences between this track and its Dolby Digital counterpart are slim, with only the stronger bass of the DTS mix making much of a difference. Surrounds are used effectively in a few key moments and the music comes through nicely and with a little bit of punch. The kill scenes could have been a bit stronger to bump up the jump scare factor a little bit but aside from that this disc sounds quite good. Levels are properly balanced and it's never hard to understand the performers. The subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read and free of any obvious typographical errors.
Director Dae-wung Lim provides a ten-minute on camera interview where he talks about why he chose to shoot the movie in the style that he used as well as casting decisions and how he worked with his actors and actresses to coax specific types of performances out of them. An eighteen minute effects featurette shows how some of the make up effects were handled and how the production design crew did their best to make the sets as perfect as possible.
The biggest and best of the extra features is a half hour long documentary that takes us behind the scenes of the production and which features interviews with the cast and the crew. It's a bit promotional in nature but it does contain some interesting behind the scenes footage and some of the interviews are worth watching to hear the actors discuss what they liked about the parts they played. A short, seven-minute featurette that includes some rather useless footage of the cast posing for promotional photographs is also included but it adds very little to the package, to be honest.
Up next is a trio of quick deleted scenes available with or without an optional commentary from the director who explains why they were trimmed. These don't change the film much at all but there is a reasonably nasty gore scene in here that wasn't used in the movie where one poor soul gets an ear mutilated. Some bits and pieces of further character development can also be found tucked away in here, had these been included in the picture it might have helped things a bit more as far as the ending goes.
Rounding out the extra features is a Tartan Asia Extreme promo reel, the film's original theatrical trailer, trailers for a few other Tartan DVDs, animated menus and chapter stops.
Bloody Reunion is a solid slasher film with some nice, scary moments and an interesting and thought provoking plot. The conclusion reaches a little bit but not enough to ruin the film. Tartan's DVD could have looked better but it's watchable enough and the sound quality is quite good. A few interesting extras round out the package nicely and make this one worth a look for horror movie fans. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.