4 DAYS promo art

(2008, South Korea)

3 and a half stars  

directed by: Seo Min-yeong
starring: Seo Min-yeong, Jung Woon-taek, Im Ye-won, Lee Jae-yong-I, Lee Won-jae-I, Hong Yeo-jin

choice dialogue:

“I came here to commit suicide. I don’t want to be killed.”

- the irony.

slash with panache?


[review by JA Kerswell]

   4 DAYS
  The irony is strong with 4 DAYS, where a group gathered to commit suicide are killed one-by-one by a mysterious killer.

So obscure that, at the time of writing this review, shot-on-film South Korean slasher 4 DAYS has no entry on IMDB. It is a film blessed with a unique concept: a group of people who have gathered at an abandoned school to commit suicide are instead targeted by a killer who bumps them off one-by-one. It is well made, well acted and shot through with the blackest humour and is gory to boot. Quite why it is so unknown is anyone’s guess.

A diverse group gathers to take a bus ride into the remote countryside on a trip organised by a brother and sister duo who call themselves the Death Helpers. They hike through the woods to a sprawling school complex that has been left to the elements for five years. Once there, the group are calmly told that their suicides will be facilitated in the order they booked their grim excursion whether it be by hanging, pills or jumping from the tallest building. One of their number - an injured and retired baseball player - becomes angry that their bodies will be left to rot where they fall and expresses his wish to leave. Despite the duo’s protestations, he flees into the woods.

   4 DAYS
  As big a mystery as to who is the killer is why this decent South Korean slasher is virtually unknown - even in its home country?

The remaining group gather for a last supper before the first planned suicide of a young woman who has cancer and wants to spare her family the pain of watching her die. She is told exactly what to expect when she hangs herself and how long it will take. But as her suicide begins the remaining group hear the sound of a falling body hitting the ground outside. At first, annoyed someone has jumped the queue (no pun intended); one of them points out that the dead body’s shoes are still on - and that is uncustomary in South Korean suicide. They are further surprised when the young woman who was hanging in the other room stumbles in with her noose still attached. She says it became loose and she has no idea why.

Spooked by a real death and a life seeming spared by accident, some in the group decide that they don’t want to die after all. They are further shocked when they find the body of one of the organisers who has been stabbed to death by an unseen assailant. This triggers panic and a series of vicious murders and suicides as some who had previously sworn to kill themselves fight to stop being murdered. It also becomes a race to uncover who is killing the members of the suicide club …

4 DAYS can’t help but be a little maudlin at times. However, the film functions pretty well as a whodunnit slasher - with its gory kills, a teeth-gnashing denouement between a survivor and the killer and a prowling, subjective POV camera. It also has a comedy streak blacker than the chambers of a dead nun’s heart (as Nick Cave once sung). The irony of the predicament of the group of people who earlier had all planned to die trying to live in the face of a mad killer is obvious. Where the film really pushes this dark comedy is with a disturbing scenes such as where an anorexic woman, who has fallen into a muddy pit, tries to distract herself by pushing dirt into her mouth and pretending it is chocolate and blueberries.

   4 DAYS
  4 DAYS certainly doesn't skimp on the red stuff.

Quite what the message behind the movie is is open to some conjecture - but it seems that it is a call to remember those left behind by suicide. It ends with the sobering coda “Suicide is the most sinful murder” and “I hope for a society without suicide.” Given that South Korea’s real-life suicide rate remains the highest among the major advanced countries it is perhaps little wonder that the film may have played with themes too raw to be popular with general audiences.

So, it is all the more remarkable that 4 DAYS uses the slasher movie template to explore some pretty heavyweight issues. There is also the added contradictions and complexities of inviting an audience to watch a gory slasher movie that ultimately rails against death. The ending suggests a fork in the road between hope and nihilism - which is a tightrope the film walks throughout. Hopefully, this challenging - yet conventionally entertaining - film will find its audience one day.

4 DAYS was shot on film in early 2007 and released to South Korean cinemas late 2008 - where it failed to generate much interest. Again perhaps hinting at its controversial subject matter, the film got a brief TV release but for all intents and purposes vanished from its home country without even coming out on DVD. The film did get a DVD release only in Japan - where, somewhat confusingly, it was given the title SUICIDE CLUB. Japanese director Sion Sono had released a much more flamboyant film that touched on similar themes under that name in 2001.

Unfairly forgotten, 4 DAYS deserves to be rescued from obscurity.


BODYCOUNT 15   bodycount!   female: 8 / male: 7

1) Female killed (method unseen)
      2) Female falls to her death
      3) Male stabbed repeatedly
      4) Female vomits up blood
      5) Female beaten with plank with nails in it
      6) Male has throat pushed onto broken glass
      7) Male jumps to his death
      8) Female crushed by a truck
     10) Female hit on the head
     11) Female drowned
     12) Male hwhacked repeatedly with an axe
     13) Female seen hanging
     14) Male seen hanging
     15) Male impaled on broken see-saw



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