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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » H
H
Tartan Video // R // May 24, 2005
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted May 24, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Written and directed by Korean filmmaker Jong-hyuk Lee, H tries its damnedest to rank up there with such highly regarded serial killer/crime films as Se7en and Silence Of The Lambs but ultimately bites off more than it can chew.

The movie starts off with a pretty solid premise – someone is killing pregnant women and the cops aim to find out why and to put a stop to it all. Whoever is responsible for the slayings also has a penchant for removing the unborn fetus from the womb at the time of the murder. Other than that though, the similarities that the cops were hoping to find just aren't there. There are too many differences in the three murders found so far for them to really say for certain who is responsible for all of this.

One of the police officers on the case, Kim-mi yun, finds a connection to some murders committed years before by a serial killer named Shin Hyun, who is currently incarcerated. The police go to him, in grand Silence Of The Lambs fashion, to try and get whatever information they can out of him before a fourth victim is found. Two detectives, Kim and Kang, do their utmost to use whatever scrap of information Shin gives up to their advantage and soon they realize that the connection runs a lot deeper than either one of them could have ever guessed.

H should have been a lot better than it was. Yeah, even if it does rip off the two aforementioned American films it could have been an entertaining and grisly thriller had the pacing been better. Sadly, it wasn't. That film meanders along for the first two thirds and the end result is, to be frank, quite dull. Sure, the murder scenes are gory and actually pretty effective in the make up FX department but there aren't enough of them for the film to succeed on gore alone (a difficult but not impossible task, just check out the Guinea Pig films from Japan). The performances are decent enough, but again, none of them are so good as to really pull you into the film, they're merely sufficient. The direction is nice, and there are some great flourishes of genius evident in the cinematography, but these happen so few and far between that there's not enough style to make up for the lack of substance.

Then there's the comic relief. The interplay between Kim and Kang tends to border on the absurd, which feels really, really out of place in a film that's obviously striving for dark and gritty. Maybe the filmmaker's felt that the audience would need a reprieve from the barreling intensity of the darker scenes that precede these moments of ineffective humor, but in order for those to be necessary, the barreling intensity would have to be effective, not derivative.

One thing I will give the film credit for is the ending. While I can't say I necessarily liked it or think it was appropriate, I will admit that I didn't see it coming at all and that it did take me by surprise. It's a pretty unpredictable finish to a very predictable film and while it'll probably make you scratch your head and wonder where they were going with all of this, at least you didn't see it coming from a hundred miles away.

The DVD

Video:

H is the recipient of a nice 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The opening few minutes show a little bit of mild print damage in the form of the odd speck or scratch and some of the darker scenes exhibit some moderate grain but for the most part, the movie does look quite good. Colors stay pretty strong when they're supposed to (the film has an intentionally muted color scheme but there are some scenes that are quite robust looking, color-wise) and the black levels remain quite strong and don't break up. There is some edge enhancement noticeable in a few scenes but there aren't any problem with mpeg compression artifacts.

Sound:

You've got your choice of watching H in either a Korean language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix or a Korean language DTS 5.1 Surround Sound mix, with optional subtitles available in English or Spanish. Both mixes sound quite good with some nice, atmospheric fill ins courtesy of the rear channels during a few of the more intense moments in the film. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and it thankfully never gets lost in the background music or sound effects that the film uses. The subtitles omit some of the non-essential dialogue but they do cover probably 99.5% of the film without any issues. There are no typographical errors and the lettering is strong and clear and easy to read and follow.

Extras:

Aside from the usual Tartan Asia Extreme trailer selection, you'll also find an alternate opening scene (one which, in my opinion, isn't as effective as they one they ended up going with), a decent size still gallery, and a clip of some raw behind the scenes footage that gives us an okay look at how the movie was made. None of this is really mind blowing stuff and it doesn't do much to save the film, but it's reasonably interesting and if you were into the movie more than I was, then you'll probably enjoy giving it a look-see.

Final Thoughts:

H isn't a horrible movie, but it is quite dull, it's not a very original film, and some of the comic relief drags it down a notch or two as it feels very inappropriate in the context of the film. Tartan's DVD looks and sounds good, however, and they've included a couple of decent extras, just not a ton of them. As much as it pains me to say it, I've got to go with 'skip it' on this one, though it might be worth a rental if you're really into serial killer films.

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.

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