Korean Movie Review – Paradise Murdered (극락도 살인사건)


Directed by Kim Han-min

Having been seriously surprised by “Ghost Sweepers,” it seemed like timing was on my side with the recent special edition release of Kim Han-min’s “Paradise Murdered,” a horror thriller from the director of the excellent action film “War of the Arrows” (2011). That film had moments of epic action and some impressive acting from its cast, so I was interested in seeing what the director’s first film would be like.

The film opens with two police officers investigating a spate of murders on Paradise Island. Paradise Island refers to an idyllic village off the mainland inhabited by 18 people. It’s a perfect village, with spectacular views, a generous mayor, no illness and where harmony reigns.

This harmony is shattered, however, when a series of murders takes place, causing paranoia and discontent through the village.

The high tides make it impossible for anyone to leave the island and their only form of radio communication has been obliterated. This causes further unrest, as it becomes apparent that the murderer must be living on the island.

When a note is found that proclaims, “It shouldn’t have been brought on the island,” it confuses matters further, as it is believed the note is referring to the temple that was built to scare off the ancient spirit of the fisherman’s daughter that haunts the island. This is when ghostly apparitions appear over the island. With each new apparition, or each new theory as to who the killer is, a new murder or new tragic “accident” takes place until only two people remain and the mystery of the murders on the island is finally revealed.

Stylistically, the film is split into three. The opening plays like a hard-boiled thriller with two detectives investigating a gruesome murder, then, as you might expect, the film plays up its more slapstick elements, highlighted beautifully in the first five minutes by the four fishermen’s reaction to finding a severed head! Then the final third of the film turns into a straight up horror flick, complete with a scary girl with black hair and white face.

Regular readers of this column, i.e., my mum and my dad, will know that my one major peeve is a film that feels it needs to play the comedy card, which takes away any kind of tension.  However, as in “War of the Arrows,” the pacing of the film is one of its strengths. The final third is extremely enjoyable, as the atmosphere and tension builds to an exciting, albeit drawn out, conclusion.

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