Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Review: Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)

If Korean horror is your thing, then you might get a kick out of this new release from Second Sight ... It's being promoted as the scariest film ever ... but I don't think it's that!

The basic idea has been done many times before. A group of teens - in this case they run some sort of a Haunted Podcast show - decide to enter and explore Gonjiam, an old creepy asylum which is said to be haunted. They want to capture the ghosts and scares on video, mainly to increase their audience, as there's some sort of conceit where the more viewers they have, the more money they make.

So one chap stays in a tent in the forest outside, while the others head into the asylum to explore.

The film takes an age to get there ... we see the teens meeting up, drinking, eating, packing, travelling ... for goodness sake just get to the action! And so they enter the asylum and spend ages creeping around, scaring themselves, finding all sorts of strange artefacts like old photographs, creepy dolls, torture boxes, hospital areas and the like ... It also appears that the chap running the Podcast is faking much of what happens ...

But then, of course, things start happening which cannot be faked. Ghosts are seen, water drips, the rooms' doors open and close by themselves, and before you know it, the two girls are racing away in terror ... and then one of them gets possessed by something ...

There are a couple of nice jump scares, but there's really nothing here that I've not seen before. The setting is familiar from films like Session 9 or Silent Hill, with elements from Return to House on Haunted Hill or the remake of Thirteen Ghosts cropping up ... It's also like any film you've seen where the protagonists are trapped and being stalked in a creepy old house/asylum/hospital/underground bunker. There's the usual Korean tropes of girls with long black hair, strange noises and the like ... but it's not really scary. Entertaining, yes, if you like this sort of film, as I said, but this is the issue with promoting your film as 'Genuine Scares' and 'the perfect horror movie' ... there's too much out there which genuinely meets that sort of description, and the film you're promoting needs to deliver on every element to meet that.

There's also a 'found footage' element to the narrative in that the visuals come from the cameras and such like that the team have with them ... but it's not really 'found' in that we're seeing this in 'real time' ie as shown to the unseen watchers of the Podcast.

Overall it's not bad. It's overlong, takes too long to get to the asylum, and sadly too predictable to be really scary.

Available from:

Director: Jung Bum-shik

Starring: Wi Ha-joon, Lee Seung-wook, Park Ji-hyun

Special Features 

  • New audio commentary by Mary Beth McAndrews and Terry Mesnard
  • Fear the Unknown: ZoĆ« Rose Smith on Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum

Archive featuerettes: 

  • The Beginning of the Rumours
  • The New Faces
  • The Sanctum of Horror
  • The Truth of the Ghostlore
  • The Live Recording
  • The Press Conference
  • Trailers

    Catalogue number: 2NDBR4215

    Certificate: 15

    Region: Region B

    Language: Korean

    Subtitles: English

    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

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