Horror anthology films are certainly a hot item right now, and generally that's been a good thing. Korean entry Horror Stories is somewhere in the middle of the pack quality wise, with two of its four segments being exemplary, and two only mediocre.
The film has a framing segment involving a young woman, Ji-won (Kim Ji-won) who's been kidnapped, and whose kidnapper (Yoo Yeon-seok) asks her to tell him scary stories to help him sleep, or he'll kill her, Arabian Nights style. Ji-won proceeds to tell the scariest stories she knows.
The plots are varied. There's a serial killer on an airplane, a couple of kids alone at home, a Cinderella style tale of jealous stepsisters, and a zombie story. Below are short descriptions of the segments, as provided with the DVD:
Don't Answer the Door
Ambulance on the Death Zone
As I said, the segments are a mixed bag. The first one, with the two young kids home alone in their apartment waiting for mom to come home, is very good. It's full of creepy adults, unsettling imagery, and really good performances by the two youngsters. The labor dispute subplot delivers just enough realism to make it plausible, and the supernatural elements drive the scares home.
The final, zombie themed segment is excellent as well. Set mostly in an ambulance hurtling down an abandoned highway, the tone is suffocating and paranoid. Is the little girl infected with the zombie virus? Does the hospital have the necessary vaccine or is the paramedic just lying because he doesn't want to risk his own skin? The whole time is tense and thrilling, with a fun and exciting conclusion.
The middle two segments, however, are okay, but lackluster. The serial killer on an airplane segment is interesting, but light on the thrills (though there's lots of gore and arterial spray, if you like that kind of thing), and the battling stepsisters segment has some disturbing moments, but overall falls a little flat.
Taken as a whole, Horror Stories is definitely worth a viewing, especially for fans of Asian horror. It's fun, scary, and interesting, with high production values, and good performances, even in the segments whose stories aren't stellar. Recommended.