The past few years have been very good for fans of superhero movies that don’t feel like “standard” superhero movies. One of my favourites remains Unbreakable but I’d also have to mention the fantastic Defendor and the so-good-you-must-see-it-ASAP Chronicle. All of those movies provided a nice, unique spin on the superhero subgenre, not to mention the likes of Super and Kick-Ass. And there are plenty more than I can reel off. If you’re better steeped in the various superhero identities out there then you’ll probably already have at least three or four more that could fit in with the aforementioned titles. Another one to add to the list is Haunters.
Written and directed by Min-suk Kim, Haunters actually takes a very traditional approach to tell a tale of an untraditional character. We get a bit of an origin story (just a few minutes though) before moving forward and seeing how things have panned out for Cho-in (Dong-won Kang) in the present day. Cho-in has an amazing ability – he can control anyone within his line of sight and make them do absolutely anything. How does he put this power to good use? Well, he goes into businesses and effectively “pauses” anyone around while he gets money handed over to him. This works just fine until he encounters Im Gyoo-nam (Soo Go) and finds that he cannot be controlled. It seems that Cho-in has found an enemy. It also seems that Im Gyoo-nam will have to find reserves of strength that he was previously unaware of if he wants to bring this super-powered villain to justice.
I try not to fall into the trap that many of us almost fell into a few years ago. You know the one I mean. That time when Japan and South Korea seemed to be making all of the best movies and every film that was subsequently released was praised as an instant classic. Until it became clear that they, welllllll, weren’t. We were still getting the bad with the good. Yet it’s still tempting to think, especially after seeing a film like Haunters, that the good stuff is VERY good.
The cast do a pretty good job and the movie moves easily through a number of tonal changes (action scenes give way to comedy moments which give way to thriller set-pieces which gave way to moments of eerie tension) but there was just something that felt very unique and off-kilter about the whole thing that impressed me more than the individual elements. As I sat watching the movie I knew that I was enjoying it more than many others in the audience. But I didn’t care. To hell with them, I thought, this will be MY hidden gem, the film I will keep mentioning as a recommendation to people who will then say “what? never heard of it”. And I don’t mind that at all.
I do want everyone else to enjoy this film as much as I did but there’s some small voice of reason telling me that I’m not going to see that happen. Some will get to it eventually and be won over. Others either won’t find it available in their area or will give up on it when it refuses to conform to genre rules. I hope if you’ve read this far then you’ll at least give it a go and see how you end up feeling about it.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: MIN-SUK KIM
STARS: DONG-WON KANG, SOO GO, CHOI DEOK-MOON, JEONG EUN-CHAE, DA-KYEONG YOON
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: SOUTH KOREA