Friday, February 9, 2018

RV: Resurrected Victims (2017)

Director: Kwak Kyung-taek
Notable Cast: Kim Rae-won, Kim Hae-sook, Sung Dong-il, Jang Young-nam, Jeon Hye-jin, Lee Ji-won, Baek Bong-ki

In the last few years, the South Korean market has started exporting some pretty intriguing genres. Horror, in particular, made quite the splash just two years ago. The Wailing and Train to Busan erupted from South Korea to take the international world by storm. When the first trailer for RV: Resurrected Victims slyly slipped online from Well Go USA, the same company that released the previous two films in the US, it looked like it would be a third film to add to the critical success of the other films mentioned. In fact, the tone and concept almost seemed to be a combination of the two films as it focused on resurrected dead people and what looked like a substantial amount of existential dread. These were the expectations that I proudly strapped on for my journey into the film. These were also the expectations that sabotaged most – if not all – my pleasure in watching RV: Resurrected Victims. Instead of a thorough examination of the social and cultural impacts of its concepts, victims returning from the dead to seek vengeance on those who killed them and were not punished by justice, RV stumbles through and ends up being a cliché riddled detective procedural that embraces the South Korean thriller formula with a ‘safe is better than sorry’ attitude rather than shooting for the stars. Compared to the heights of execution that made The Wailing and Train to Busan immediate critic and fan favorites, RV just rings hollow and hardly can even be considered horror to make those comparisons.

Rain, rain go away. Seriously though, dead people are coming back, you're just irritating.
Granted, RV: Resurrected Victims is hardly an exercise in terrible film making. The South Korean market simply would not allow that, particularly from a film that would end up seeing international distribution. As always, the production values are more than impressive and on all accounts the performances from the cast remain layered and effective. As the lead protagonist, Kim Rae-won as a prosecutor whose mother returns from the grave to seek vengeance on her killer, gives an admirable performance to invoke a lot of the audience emotions towards what is happening on screen while the larger ensemble cast powers through the predictable set ups and melodramatic dialogue. In many ways, the film attempts with its damnedest to sell itself and, if anything, that’s respectable.

Despite these strong production values and earnest performances, RV just simply cannot overcome its own misused concepts and forced melodramatic moments. As mentioned, the film starts off on an intriguing Twilight Zone-ish concept that held a lot of weight in potential to create a larger social commentary, but the film instead opts to tell a more intimate story about one gentleman, his dead mother, and a murder mystery that borderlines conspiracy. By the time it introduces the mystery itself, setting up a more traditional narrative that uses its supernatural slant in the loosest ways possible which only invoke far more questions than the film is willing to answer, it falls into predictable pathways that undercut any emotional power that it could have with its characters. To put it in simpler terms, it tries really hard for pay off that it has not earned. This kind of hollow experience, despite all of the potential to be a heart wrenching story for a family with grander implications on a system that does not necessarily punish the unjust, fringes on being truly boring. Not to mention, an experience that never resonates beyond its own narrative.

She's back. To bring justice and kick ass. 
Perhaps the film may have felt stronger if I had not pulled in the expectational baggage of the soaring successes of The Wailing and Train to Busan with me, but at this point it’s hard for me to call RV: Resurrected Victims more than a curiosity watch. The concept seems intriguing enough and it’s not unjustified to expect the strong production and performances that the film does give its audience. In the end though, RV just does not have the wherewithal to take its material to bigger levels and falls into predictable pastures that do not do it any favors as it ignores its horror elements for melodramatic ones. Go in with tempered expectations and perhaps one will find some more enjoyment and depth out of the film than I did, but for now RV remains a film more for South Korean cinema fans and those curious to the concept than something I would recommend on a larger scale.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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