THE RECORD - region 0, Hong Kong DVD
3 stars   

directed by: Kim Jong Seuk
starring: Hon Chia Hyan, Park Inn Wei

choice dialogue:

"We can't sit around and wait for him to come and get us!"

The usual teenage dilemmas ...


slash with panache?

THE RECORD is one of the three Korean slasher movies to have come out in recent years - the others being (the presently unavailable in English) BLOODY BEACH, and, the altogether classier RING-inspired NIGHTMARE (aka HORROR GAME MOVIE).

The setup ...

It kicks off in a high school where, only apart from the Korean appearance of the pupils and tutor, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in America, both from the general Western look of the buildings and the sub-PORKYS' shenanigans that pass as character building for the central cast: looking up a teacher's skirt, petty extortion, one pupil complaining of an "itchy penis" to the school's sexy nurse, and relentless bullying (mostly of one boy, who wears an anti-pollution face mask, and whose coughing angers the some of the boys in the class).

It's one week before the Summer break and two girls (one foxy and the other virginal and sweet) seem to take pity on the nerdy kid and invite him up to spend the weekend at a remote cabin in the woods (a dead ringer for the kind found at Camp Crystal Lake), all goes well until, all of a sudden, three figures with their faces hidden behind balaclavas, one holding a video camera, burst in. They chase the boy round the house before pinning him to the bed, which they bisect with a squealing chain saw, as the girls look on, seemingly terrified. One of the figures pulls out a knife and, in front of the constant gaze of the camera, plunges it repeatedly into the boy's chest causing blood to splatter all over his face. One of the figures shouts "Cut!", and all three of them pull off their balaclavas to reveal their identities as the boys who had been bullying the nerdy kid earlier in class; they fall about laughing, along with the foxy girl ("Don't freak out. It's all a show!"). It was all a stunt (apparently to make a fake snuff movie to sell to make some cash), only the virginal girl and the nerdy kid weren't in on it. However, it seems to have gone horribly wrong when they realise that the stunt knife has malfunctioned and they have really killed him. Panicking, they decide to cover up his death by digging a grave, covering his body in a sheet and setting fire to it, but it appears that despite his appearance he wasn't actually dead; he sits bolt upright and, as the horrified group watch helpless, races blind and ablaze over the edge of a cliff, falling into the dark.

Things go from bad to worse ...

As people are liable to do in these kind of things the group of friends make a pledge - "What happened tonight ... we're taking it to our graves." Things go according to plan, and the group manage to sweat out the questions from the boy's sister, who visits the school looking for clues, and the questions from their teacher. However, on the anniversary of his death the group find themselves being stalked by a figure in an orange boiler-suit, wearing the seemingly dead boy's pollution mask and clutching a large butcher's knife...

Now, a few bells may be ringing. Yes, this *is* a shameless skit on the well worn I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER theme, that's for certain - but THE RECORD is that particular film on an escalation acid trip (and to be fair, to criticise this film as a rip-off we might as well dismiss all the early 80's slashers that followed in the wake of HALLOWEEN if we blindly follow that logic). And this film does distinguish itself - think of all the daftness, the most shout-out-loud stupidness of the nouveaux slashers of the last six years and imagine a film where all those clichés and ridiculously dumb characters are mixed together in one large pot, add a little Asian spice, some old school gore, and then you'd have this film. Believe me, it makes the trashy excesses of I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER look positively restrained in comparison.

... and then they get really nasty a year later!

THE RECORD (the title of which, as you might have guessed, refers to a 'record' of the video kind rather than the vinyl type) has it all. After one of group is initially attacked in her flat, she and two of the others find a note pinned to board in her kitchen with a bloody knife - on the note is an address of a website which, when they log on, has streaming footage of the 'snuff' video they took that fateful night, but with an extra bit at the end where a gruff voice taunts with footage of a meat warehouse where, it turns out, one of the group has been forcibly taken - which, in turn, leads to a grim discovery involving a severed arm and a mobile phone. As the group (and other characters) begin to be whittled away by the seemingly omnipresent killer the action gets more and more far-fetched: in one inspired bit of lunacy three of the group are having lunch in a burger bar when they spot a television screen above the diners showing one of their friends being cut up on a slab (the killer somehow streaming this footage into the seemingly randomly chosen restaurant). There's also a remarkably daft scene when one of the girls decides to take a break from trying to find the killer by taking an unaccompanied trip to a near deserted sauna ("Look at my face, it's completely coarse!", she whines, in one of the film's few subtitle gaffs), only to try and act surprised when the orange suited phantom emerges from the mist; her fate sealed when rather than competently fleeing the pursuing figure she stops off in the changing room to get dressed!

Showdown time!

THE RECORD is trash heaven. I expect a lot of people would really hate this film, but I loved every God damn trashy minute of it. I mean, it's not going to win any awards for originality, sure, and it's pretty cheap, too, but it's a whole lot of fun - especially the last half hour which packs in as many zany twists and unlikely turns as it possibly can, and the whole thing ends with a suitably daft flourish that'll make you wonder how the film makers expected to get away with it (but on reflection is totally in keeping with its other magpie tendencies).

Fed up with the lacklustre nouveaux slashers? Well, try this little cracker to restore your faith in slasher trash cinema!

BODYCOUNT 12   bodycount!   female:5 / male:7

       1) Male stabbed in chest, set alight and falls to death
       2) Male dismembered (mostly offscreen)
       3) Female falls to her death
       4) Female drowned in hot tub
       5) Female killed (method unseen)
       6) Male killed with knife to temple
       7) Female impaled on science beaker
       8) Male stabbed repeatedly in chest and back
       9) Male found with throat cut
     10) Male impaled on spikes
     11) Male slashed to death (off screen)
     12) Female slashed to death (off screen)