South Korea’s ridiculous “vengeance” cinema—the whole of which can be summed up by the idea “Looks as if it’s my turn to whack you in the head with a hammer”—wasn’t about to go away after Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy stole a surprise victory at Cannes in 2004. It thrives and grows, and if Park has since moved on to nobler ambitions (e.g., depicting human emotions), a younger generation is ready to launch itself into the breach. If you always enjoyed Harold Pinter’s tense chamber dramas but wished the characters were better armed, A Bloody Aria is your ticket.
A horny opera teacher and his ditzy, unsuspecting student drive out into the country, where an attempted rape is almost as predictable as the gang of youths that happens to wander by that particular piece of weedy shoal. One of them likes to collect dead birds. Another rides a motorbike. The ringleader has one of those bowl haircuts fashionable among cinema’s demented killers. How to pass the time?
There are precedents for this kind of hillbilly horror, most notably Deliverance. But while John Boorman certainly had money for a banjo or two, he didn’t slick up his film like a car commercial (a white Mercedes is especially caressed by the camera). Director Won Shin-yeon seems to be getting off on the blood-smeared grins and sudden shifts of power. If there’s a point to it all—maybe something about bullying—it’s lost in the oppressive style. Time for the genre to get real again.
Cast and crew