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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Acacia
Acacia
Tartan Video // R // June 28, 2005
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted July 2, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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Acacia (2003) is another fairly solid entry into the recent Asian horror boon. Director Ki-hyung Park has some credentials because his first feature Whispering Corridors came out in the emerging days of this supernatural horror wave.

Do-il and Mi-sook are a fairly happy married couple, though the two are getting on in years and have remained childless. They decide to adopt, and Mi-sook takes a shine to seven year-old Jin-sung, a quiet tyke, who dresses like David Lynch, has a weird connection with trees, and a penchant for painting disturbing Munch-like artwork. Some viewers may balk at the idea of someone wanting to adopt the dark and haunted kid, but I know that I'd prefer the little Tim Burton or Edgar Allen Poe over cute smiles, dimples, and freckles.

It takes a while for the new family to bond. Jin-sung seems particularly obsessed with a dead acacia tree in their back yard, likes to sleep with a beetle in his hand, and, at first, refuses to use his new surname. But, Mi-sook adjusts to her role as a mother, Jin-sung opens up and befriends the little girl next door, and pretty soon everyone is getting along despite Jin-sung's occasional tantrums.

But things worsen when Mi-sook unexpectedly becomes pregnant and gives birth to another child. Jin-sung is increasingly resentful, angry, and destructive, leaving his adoptive parents at a crossroads over what to do with him. After a particularly bad fight, Jin-sung runs off and disappears. But, in his absence, strange things begin to happen, Mi-sook has terrible nightmares, Do-il begins to show signs of a violent temper, and the long dead acacia tree begins to sprout blossoms.

Acacia definitely wins points for not aiming for the bleaker drudge and dread tone that most Asian horror flicks try to elicit. And, hey, its creepy kid isn't some weed-haired girl. That's different. The jump shock scares are there, but mostly the film is very low key, keeping its horror at a definite simmer. The film starts off a bit more Village of the Damned with most of the menace an mystery centering around Ji-sung. Then, with his disappearance, the film takes on the more family-unhinged vibe of something like The Amnityville Horror. Initially, this is a very out of the blue and off-putting shift (particularly for the husbands character) which only makes true sense at the films end. The sense of suspense is fairly involving, though that little shift is a puzzle which actually hurts the last third of the film.

The mystery angle plays out with some surprise and definite tragedy, but the way it is handled purposefully leaves the viewer in the cold, so it comes off as confounding rather than intriguing. But, the root of the horror, that paternal anxiety, is a good hook. The creepy moments are there, including some great nightmare stuff, Jin-sook smacking his newborn sibling and then covering the babies crying mouth, and I think it is safe to say no other horror film has made red yarn quite so foreboding.

The DVD: Tartan

Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. A real visually treat thanks to some top notch cinematography and production design. The film is very recent, so the print is very clean and spot free. Color and contrast details are well-rendered. Technically, there are some issues with the transfer. There is some softness present in several scenes, particularly long distance shots, that makes the image not as crisp as it should be. There are also some combing atrefects.

Sound: DTS, 5.1 Surround, or 2.0 Dolby Stereo, Korean language with optional English or Spanish subtitles. Audio exhibits some good mixing. The dialogue is always clear and centered. The atmospherics and soundtrack get some decent mixing in the surround channels, but, again, the film aims for the subtle and doesn't have a lot of play with extreme fx mixing. The score goes from some melancholy piano in the beginning to the traditional horror screeching strings by the films end.

Extras: Slipcase— Photo Gallery— Featurettes: Action & Cut (5:11), The World in the Movie (3:51), About the Director (2:41), Cast Interviews (5:03), and Director Interview (4:47). The featurettes feel even shorter than their length, fairly pedestrian promo stuff, intersting but not tremendously insightful.--- Cast & Crew Commentary.

Conclusion: Those looking for horror with some pure scares and the normal beats of Asian horror films may want to be wary because Acacia is going for more subtle creeps. The conclusion and some scares fall a little flat, but the movie is beautifully crafted visually and probably delivers enough chills to keep horror fans interested. Those with a library full of supernatural fright fests, especially those of this new Asian wave, will probably want to add this one to their collection. For the rest of the casual horror fans out there, Acacia is a very good rental.

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