"H", the latest serial killer chiller to come out of South Korea, doesn't waste any time in giving fans of the genre the goods. Within the film's first few minutes, a landfill worker finds the nude and mutilated body of a teenage girl. Later on, after the arrival of Detectives Kang Tae-jun (Ji Jin-hee), Kim Mi-yun (Yeom Jeong-ah), and Park (Sung Ji-ru), another grisly discovery is made-- the schoolgirl was pregnant, and her unborn child was untimely ripped from the womb and left elsewhere.
After another pregnant woman is found murdered on a bus, the investigation zeroes in on Shin Hyun (Cho Seong-woo), a convicted serial killer who is currently on death row for the murder of six women several years ago. The details of the current crimes are nearly identical to the murders committed by Shin, and the detectives suspect that the copycat killer is somehow related to him. Unfortunately, Kang's attempts to interrogate Shin are unsuccessful, with the convicted killer offering only a smile and philosophical aphorisms in return.
Meanwhile, Kang and Kim follow a number of leads, and even end up catching one suspect red-handed following a murder in a nightclub. But despite the arrest, the killings continue, with more women turning up dead throughout the city, and their murders mirroring the original killers by Shin. In addition, Kim has a personal stake in the investigation, as her fiancé, also a detective, committed suicide after investigating the original Shin murders. Somehow, Shin is at the center of this new spate of murders, but the detectives are stymied in figuring out the connection.
Like 1999's "Tell Me Something", "H" is a slickly produced 'hard gore thriller' that features rich cinematography and top-notch production values. "H" also outdoes "Tell Me Something" when it comes to presenting the gruesome details, with no-holds-barred imagery of mutilated corpses, throats being cut, and even a victim's ear being sliced off-- definitely not for the squeamish viewer. The script also deserves kudos for fleshing out some the fascinating details behind what motivated Shin's original murder spree, as well as the rationale behind the timing of the killings.
Unfortunately, "H" also shares some similar weaknesses to its predecessor. Like "Tell Me Something", "H" is a fun ride, as long as you do not think too much about the logic of the story. Unfortunately, as the film rolls into its final act, it seems as though animator-turned-writer/director Lee Jong-hyuk (his animation work was featured in "Wanee and Junah") has painted himself into a corner with the clever set-up and intriguing build-up. Instead of a resolution that ties up the loose ends in a satisfactory (not to mention logical) fashion, Lee's script offers up a gimmicky plot twist that makes the convolution of "Tell Me Something" seem mild by comparison.
While "Tell Me Something" benefited from the presence of Korea's top actors, "H" is saddled with a mixed bag of performers. Stepping up from her supporting role in "Tell Me Something", Yeom is cool to watch, though it is a shame that her character is not given more to do other than be the silent and emotionally reserved Kim. Cho, whom audiences may remember as the male lead in "Chunhyang", is sufficiently creepy as the enigmatic Shin, though at times, he seems to be trying to hard to channel Anthony Hopkins. On the other end of the spectrum, former television actor Ji seems to be suffering from a bout of 'unmotivated emotional response syndrome', as he over-emotes in almost every scene he is in. Having previously appeared in "Marrying the Mafia" and "A.F.R.I.K.A.", Sung ends up being an unwelcome distraction with the comic relief trappings of his character. Finally, Kim Sung-kyun is annoyingly pretentious as Shin's smug psychiatrist who refuses to help with the police investigation.
It is unfortunate that "H" wastes a promising premise with an increasingly clunky story and some sub-par performances. Not surprisingly, "H" failed to bring in audiences when it was released in its native Korea at the tail end of 2002 (though releasing a serial killer film during the Christmas holidays is probably not a good idea to begin with). Nevertheless, fans of the serial killer genre may wish to look this all-region DVD release up, as well as those moviegoers who don't mind style over substance.
This movie is available for order from DVDAsian.com