The Curse of February 29th is a tepid Korean supernatural thriller that lacks many thrills or scares or a story that makes much sense.
Jiyeon is a young lady who has the misfortune to work at a cursed toll booth. There was an accident there many years ago on February 29th, which date of course only appears in leap years. A prison bus wrecks and many people die, including a female serial killer, whose body is not found, but who is presumed killed in the fire. The dead woman's spirit returns every four years to kill toll booth employees. What possible motive could be behind these killings is not discussed, or even deemed important.
Jiyeon has been working at the toll booth for a few years, but was not working there in the last leap year, and so missed out on the previous iteration of murders. She works the night shift, and this leap year as it grows closer to February 29th, people begin to be murdered at other toll booths along the highway. Every night, the lights will go out, and a mysterious woman in a black car will go through Jiyeon's toll booth, handing her a ticket covered in the blood of the murder victim. The police obviously suspect Jiyeon herself, and her troubles are compounded by a woman who dresses like her following her around. Jiyeon finds that she is unable to fall asleep, and is afraid of the dark, and is convinced that the ghost of the dead serial killer is stalking her, intent on her demise.
Though the film is larded with rotting hands reaching out from under beds, and shadowy women attacking without warning or staring eerily through the elevator window on every floor, it lacks much in the way of tension or uneasiness. The numerous jump scares fail to frighten, and the murderous ghost is simply not scary. The main story of the film, the toll booth murders, is framed with scenes showing Jiyeon in an asylum being interviewed by a skeptical reporter. These scenes, along with the silly explanation by an hospital orderly of what "really happened", only serve to pad out the time and underscore how weak the main story is.
The performances are good enough, and the production values high, but the story is simply too implausible and the scares too ineptly executed to make The Curse of February 29th anything more than a yawn. Why haven't the police noticed the obvious pattern of people getting murdered at the same toll booths every four years? Why does the ghost target toll booth employees in the first place, as it seems they had nothing to do with her death aside from proximity to it? When she is convinced that the ghost is going to kill her, particularly after her friend Jongsook is killed, why doesn't Jiyeon simply quit her job and find another one? Too many questions like these are ignored, and without a compelling, comprehensible story or anything frightening, what is the point? This ends up being a nice looking film that fails to do anything else but look good. A disappointment.
The film is presented at 1.33:1, and the image is mostly clear but not impressive. There are some spots of murkiness, and in a movie about fear of the dark and shadowy figures this is not surprising, but overall the muted color palette is represented well and the action is visible.
The sound is Dolby 2 channel, and does the job but again does not impress. The dialogue is consistently audible, though with English subtitles for non-Korean speakers this is not terribly important. There are no discernible audio problems. The English subtitles cannot be turned off, and no alternate language track is available.
The only extras available on the disc are trailers. They are broken out in two groups:
K-Horror Series Trailers:
This includes trailers for The Curse of February 29th, Dark Forest of Death, My Bloody Roommate, and Hidden Floor.
This includes trailers not in Pathfinder's K-Horror series. They are: Blood Rain, The Asylum, Hera Purple Devil Goddess, Beneath the Flesh and Murder Take One. There is also a "bonus trailer", hidden in an Easter egg, for Bloody Beach.
The trailers are interesting, but add nothing to the experience of the film.
The silliness of the initial concept of The Curse of February 29th is not helped by the lack of sustained tension or real fright in the film. A horror film that is neither scary nor compelling nor trying to say deep things about society makes one wonder what purpose the film serves. The Curse of February 29th has solid craftsmanship both in front of and behind the camera, but fails to click, thanks to a weak script and its inability to frighten. Don't bother with it.