Fear Eats the Seoul – A Review

Most of us have had one of those days in Korea. You know, one of those days where you feel like you don’t belong. One of those days where people won’t stop staring at you as if you’re from another planet. One of those days where you wonder what you are really doing here and what you are going to do with your life. One of those days where you are being chased through Seoul by hordes of flesh-eating zombie demons who have been hit by a virus so bad than not even Kimchi can fight it off. No? Well, you would have if you were a character in the new micro budget horror movie “Fear Eats the Seoul” (2011) written and directed by Nick J. Calder.

A virus has taken over Korea, transforming its citizens into flesh-eating zombie demons. The only survivors that remain uninfected are holed up in Nadia’s (Amber Green) studio apartment, a strange mix who fight about everything and anything from whether kimchi is delicious to whether they should stay and hide or go and find help.

As they take necessary steps to find food, they encounter not only survivors, but rabid demons and must fight to stay alive. After meeting fellow survivor Minji, they learn the world’s solution to Korea’s zombie epidemic is to drop a bomb on the country, erasing it from the map. From here on out, the survivors must decide on their next plan of action before they, and the rest of the peninsula, are wiped from existence.

“Fear Eats the Seoul” is relatively light on gore and instead ramps up the terrifying mood. In terms of style, “28 Days Later” (2003) is a clear influence as the zombies are fast, strong, angry and purposeful, as opposed to George Romero’s more languid incarnation of the monster. However, “Fear Eats the Seoul” definitely tries to be different in terms of its look and plot development. The zombie’s bodies morph, sprouting creepy, elongated fingers and when was the last time you saw a movie where the victims call a zombie on its cell phone as they need to retrieve a set of keys in its pocket?

 

The film looks great and I was surprised to find out it was only shot on a Canon 550d. It is aided by superb postproduction. While the dubbing of the dialogue could have been slicker, the editing and the creature sound FX are both excellent and are a perfect fit. At times, the makeup effects looked like they were from a film with an exponentially larger budget, not bought from the supermarket. And the score by Brit Scott Benzie is fantastic and unexpected. Rather than textbook pulsating sounds all the way through, he too has chosen to create mood with sinister, yet melancholic music that is emotional and scary in equal measures.

 

 

However, if I am being totally honest, as much as I enjoyed the aesthetics of the edit, I felt the film could have been a good deal shorter. This may be explained by the fact that the film initially started out as a short but evolved into a feature. I also wasn’t a fan of the overuse of shaky cam during the film’s pivotal action scenes. A steadier camera in places would have shown off more of the fear exuding from the actors, but I guess this will come with time and a budget. I was also unsure as of what to make of the main characters. They are a motley crew who generally hate where they are in their lives and enjoy telling us so. I suppose you would feel slightly aggrieved if you were being attacked by zombies, but you get the impression they would be the same in any scenario. It will be interesting to see what a Korean audience will make of the film, as most of the characters seem to hate the country and see it only as a means to an end, the exception being Mary (Elinza Pretorius), but she is only in the country because her fiancé ran off. A minor point, possibly, but when a film revolves around your characters being chased by zombies, you really need to care if they live or die.

 

 

Despite any misgivings I may have had with the film, the fact remains that with a budget of only 4,500,000 won ($3,950), “Fear Eats the Seoul” is a staggering achievement. With a strong opening, a frantic ending and some tense set pieces in between, the film shows a real eye from first time director Nick Calder and a huge credit should go to producer Whitney Thompson for getting the film made. Nick remarked that somebody referred to the film as a time capsule of their stay in Korea, and despite the fact the film is clearly written by someone who doesn’t want to be a teacher, there is enough nostalgia for expats to laugh along with. Talk of soju as “Korean hooch that will fuck you up” or kimchi being “rotten reeking cabbage” will sum up many a first year here. “Fear Eats the Seoul” will not only be an enjoyable watch for expats, but for fans of the genre in general as no matter who you are, it’s good to know that after a post-apocalyptic event, much like cockroaches and Twinkies…Kimchi will still survive.

 

First published in November’s issue of Grove Korea Magazine.  Photos courtesy of Nick J. Calder and The New Industry)

Categories: Reviews

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