Out of all Asian countries, South Korea has probably produced the most slasher flicks in recent years. BLOODY REUNION is the latest - an occasionally diverting, if ultimately disappointing, mish-mash of old school early 80s mayhem, HOSTEL (2005) style torture and HAUTE TENSION (2003) style trickery.
Harking back to the classic plot device of getting a group of people together in a remote location - and then offing them in inventive ways - BLOODY REUNION has classmates (who last saw each other 16 years ago in elementary school) visit their ailing former teacher, Mrs Park (Mi-hee Oh). Mi-ja (Yeong-hie Seo), has organised the reunion to cheer up Mrs Park, whose ill health means this might be the last time she sees her old pupils. As is usual, the assembled classmates conform to seemingly one dimensional cliches - including the smoldering biker bad boy; the jolly fat one; the drunk; the meek girl; the shy geek and the trashy girl obsessed with her looks.
Before the opening credits we see (in a montage of quick cuts) that Mrs Park's life has not been an easy one. Whilst she was teaching, she almost lost her baby - but, instead, gave birth to a facially deformed boy she named Young-Win. So ashamed was she of her son she kept him locked away in the cellar from all the other children - where the only amusement he had was to play with rabbit masks. Her husband, however, could stand the shame no longer and hung himself in front of the young boy. The children Mrs Park taught were aware of Young-Win, but were scared away by his deformed face - with only the kindly shy boy, Jung-Won (Seong-won Jang) being able to look at him without screaming.
However, in the present day, Mi-ja has been looking after the now wheelchair-bound Mrs Park, and no mention is made of the whereabouts of her deformed son. To start off, the reunion is pleasant enough, with everyone seemingly pleased to see each other. However, it soon emerges that each of Mrs Park's former students holds a grudge against her for some sleight or other she made against them when they were children in her class. And, as the group disintegrates into bickering and emerging psychosis, someone wearing a rabbit mask and carry a box-cutter begins to hunt them down and pick them off one-by-one ...
BLOODY REUNION benefits from being beautifully shot (making the most of a stunning seaside location) and, for the most part, it's pretty well acted. It also benefits from not stimping on the red stuff. The HOSTEL comparison become painfully clear after one character is viciously attacked and practically slashed to ribbons on a moonlit beach; he is then tied to a chair with children's sticky tape and has his mouth pinned open. The bunny faced killer continues to torment him by forcing box-cutter blades into his mouth and washing them down his throat with boiling water from a kettle! Another hapless ex-student has her eyelids peeled back and stapled to her face with a staple gun. There are also a handful of atmospheric and pretty creepy scenes - especially where Mrs Park is haunted by shadows in the basement which seem to mirror her husband hanging himself, which is accompanied by the sound of a child giggling and running around. And, of course, a film featuring a masked killer is always going to have something going for it (surprisingly, the bunny mask is more than a little unnerving!).
However, despite some well realised nods to classic early 80s slasher flicks, the film does fall apart during the last half and hour, or so. Without giving too much away, the plot takes more and more unlikely turns until director Dae-wung Lim pulls a HAUTE TENSION style fast one (a film that was clearly an inspiration). Now, I know I maybe in the minority, but I loved the twist in Alexandre Aja's superlative French slasher - but it doesn't work nearly as well here. It also leaves plot holes gaping open (for example, Young-Win's fate is never explained). And, surely, BLOODY REUNION must be the only slasher movie in history where the accusation of soiled underpants have been the catalyst for the resulting murderous mayhem!
BLOODY REUNION certainly isn't a bad movie, but with a better thought through last half an hour could have been so much better. For more entertaining South Korean takes on old school slashers, you'd probably be better off checking out the relatively low budget charms of BLOODY BEACH (2000) and THE RECORD (2001). And if you'd like a little RINGU inspired creepiness with your slasher mayhem, then NIGHTMARE (2001) is also well worth tracking down.
female:8 / male:8
1) Male hangs himself
2) Male slashed with box cutter and tortured
3) Female has eyelids stapled open
4) Male beaten to death with lead piping
5) Female falls to her death
6) Male has eyes gouged out
7) Male stabbed in the neck with compass
8) Female body found
9) Female poisoned and stabbed
10) Female poisoned and stabbed
11) Female poisoned and stabbed
12) Male poisoned and stabbed
13) Male poisoned and stabbed
14) Male poisoned and stabbed
15) Female vanishes
16) Female vanishes