Cinderella is an interesting 'horror' movie that's being marketed as a more extreme looking piece than it really is. While the packaging would have you believe that this is a film very much in the same vein as popular Asian imports like the Ju-On or Ring series', the fact of the matter is that this is more of a psychological thriller with some supernatural elements mixed in as much as it's about long haired creepy Asian ghost girls popping out and yelling 'boo.'
Hyoon-su is a teenage high school who enjoys the popularity afforded to her by the fact that her mother is a well to do and prominent plastic surgeon. Hyoon-su doesn't think twice about having her mom help out her friends now and then, say if they aren't happy with their appearance and what a little nip and tuck action done on the sly. Unfortunately, for the ladies that Hyoon-su hooks up with discount surgery, mom's patients have a strange habit of winding up dead. Hyoon-su starts putting the pieces of this strange puzzle together one little bit at a time and soon finds herself with the rather unfortunate predicament of trying to find out who the real killer is - her mother, or an angry ghost.
More of a dark social commentary than an actual ghost story, the movie plays around with a few interesting themes and takes a few well placed pot shots at how society has forced women into being so overly concerned with their looks. We learn as much about how Hyoon-su and her mother wound up in this strange place by way of some interesting bits and pieces of back story than we do about the requisite ghost-girl who may or may not be behind all of this and it's interesting how the script ties in some commentary about parenting and family values in and amongst the periodic scenes of supernatural spookiness.
While it's certainly obvious that the film borrows what have no become staples of the recent boom of Asian horror films, such as the long haired ghost and the strange cellular phone related creepiness, at least the filmmakers tried for something a little different here in terms of the storytelling. It isn't one hundred percent successful and those expecting a balls out horror film will no likely be quite disappointed in what they find here but Cinderella is not only rather well written but it also looks fantastic. The cinematography and extremely fluid camera work is never short of impressive and adding to the fairly rich atmosphere provided by the visuals is a rather stirring score that makes excellent use of some familiar classical pieces to heighten dramatic tension and pull you in more than you may expect.
A few jump scares show up here and there, probably to allow for the film to be marketed as a more traditional horror film than it actually is, but underneath its rather cold exterior is a surprisingly different kind of film. The title is appropriate given the way the film builds and also how it ends, the performances are strong, and if the story stumbles a few times at least the movie looks and sounds quite good.
Aside from some mild trailing in a few scenes in the darker moments of the film, Tartan's 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is quite good. The black levels stay deep and strong and don't break up or pixelate at all. There is some moderate line shimmering in a couple of scenes but there aren't any issues with mpeg compression artifacts or serious edge enhancement. Color reproduction appears lifelike and accurate and there's a reasonably decent level of fine detail in both the foreground and the background of the image. Skin tones look healthy and realistic when they're supposed to and creepy the rest of the time, and overall the picture is generally quite sharp. Print damage is never a problem and the image is nice and clean.
The Korean Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS 5.1 Surround Sound tracks on this DVD are decent. The dialogue and sound effects are nice and clear and there's enough power in the lower end to make for a few decent jump scares throughout the film. The levels are well balanced and there aren't any problems with the performers getting buried in the sound effects or in the background score. Optional subtitles are supplied in both English and Spanish and they prove to be clean, clear, and easy to read and free of any noticeable typographical errors.
The only really substantial extra on this release is a half an hour long behind the scenes segment that is made up interviews with the director and a few cast members as well as some random on set production footage. Man-dae Bong, the film's director, explains the significance of the title and what he was going for with the film while the performers cover what they felt was scary about the film and what it was like working on a few of the more effect heavy set pieces in the picture. All in all, it is a fairly standard piece that adds little more to the package than really basic information.
Tartan has also supplied the 'Asia Extreme' promo reel, a few trailers, animated menus and chapter stops.
While hardly a modern classic, Cinderella gets enough right that it's worth a look. It won't scare you out of your seat but it touches on some interesting themes and it does so with a modicum of smarts and enough style to work. Tartan's disc looks and sounds quite good and while the extras are a bit fluffy, the movie is a decent effort and it makes for a solid rental.
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.