Directed By Woo-cheol Lee
Starring Yu-mi Jeong
I worship at the feet of Tartan’s Asia Extreme DVD label. I do, I can’t help it. No one makes a horror movie like the Asians. The Asians are the new Italians. In the 70’s it was all about Italian directors like Dario Argento, and Fulci. Now it’s all about Takeshi Miike and Park Chan-Wook. Even the crappy Asian horror films have great style and an approach that I never get tired of soaking up. Asia Extreme is just about the best place to find these films.
Now with all the above said, the worldwide popularity of Asian horror films has watered them down a bit. Directors and distributors in Asia are soliciting tamer films that will be easier to distribute outside of their native country. So the creepy black haired ghost girl has become extremely too popular in Asia, and by extension here in the states. Right away you have to give it too Cello for trying to do something different with a genre of film in Korea that is a bit to formulaic. The approach the director has taken is more of a dramatic one trying to invest the audience in the characters first as people and then throw on the scares. If you’re a patient person, this works brilliantly in a similar emotional arc to a film like Wolf Creek.
We meet a young gifted cellist who after being in a car accident and losing her best friend in the process decides to settle down as a teacher rather than continue to pursue her career as a musician. Without getting into too many plot details let me just say that the film is a mystery creepfest that finally kicks in after about an hour of build up. Now this can be tough with uninteresting actors but here all of the actors are solid and they do a great job of keeping you interested in the family issues and the issues our main character has with her old rivalries as they come back to haunt her. The climax of the film while most definitely falling back on the formula of modern Asian horror is still very creepy and quite satisfying.
So the rough part is that the pacing is a bit slow, especially the first two thirds. So you have to be a fan of these Asian horror films to stick it out. But if you do stay with it the pay off is entertaining. It’s far from some of the best that Korea has to offer such as Oldboy but for a debut film from a new director it shows some strong potential for future films. Stylistically, well it’s Korean, and it looks like many other Korean horror films. I love the look and style. For me it’s refreshing compared to the quick cut headache inducing horror films made in this country and I have yet to get tired of this look. If you’ve seen other Asian horror films then you know what to expect. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. If you aren’t tired of it though, this film would be a good one to check out.
OK the film is presented in anamorphic widescreen with fairly solid color representation. There is however some pretty heavy grain throughout that appears to be due to the transfer more than from the actual source material. Also the blacks are a bit murky and detail drops off in darker scenes. There’s one other weird occurrence, a few times in the film the screen jiggles just a bit. It’s not constant but when it does happen it’s jarring.
There’s several sound options available with the original Korean language DTS mix being the best. Cello is a pretty dramatic film with many talking scenes and few scenes that offer the surround environment an opportunity to shine. There are a few instances where the surround speakers do get a chance to come to life though. The dialogue, sound effects, and score are crisp and clean throughout the film.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Cello comes in a standard amaray case inside a glossy slipcover. If you’ve seen other Tartan Asia Extreme releases this one follows the standard packaging of those previous releases. I like the cover art although it actually makes the film appear to be more gory than it actually is.
The most surprising extra on this disc has to be the commentary from the director and producer. In most cases the bonus features on Asian films are overly vague and honestly irritating. I don’t know if it’s due to the translation or just a cultural difference but the extras released on most of the Asian films I’ve seen are either just fly on the wall footage of the shooting of the film or interviews featuring the vagaries I mentioned earlier. This time though, the commentary offers excellent details on the making of the films from shooting certain scenes, to music, to the actors, and even issues with time. The commentary offers excellent information that really enhances the viewing experience of Cello. Easily one of the best commentaries I’ve heard on an Asian horror film.
There’s a behind the scenes featurette featuring cast and crew interviews mixed with footage of special effects application. Here we have some of the more vague comments I’m used too but again there is actually some good stuff here too.
Other than that there’s a theatrical trailer. Watching this trailer I felt like it was a preview for a Robert Zemeckis film. Not that Zemeckis would ever do a film like this, but he does tend to tell the entire story of his films in the trailers. I usually watch the trailer on a DVD before watching the film on a DVD but I don’t recommend doing that this time. If you do some of the finale of the film will be spoiled for you.
OK, Cello isn’t going to innovate the genre but it does try to add more drama to it and give the characters more depth. It’s not an innovation, but a slight evolution. The DVD presentation is a mixed bag with video being not as good as it could have been but extras being some of the best on an Asia Extreme release. Asian horror fans should pick this one up other folks may want to give it a rental first.
Overall ( Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 7/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 7.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8.5/10
Overall ( Not an Average) 7/10