Director: Jeong Ji Yeon
Actors: Chun Woo-Hee, Shin Ha-Kyun, Lee Hye-Young, Cha Rae-Hyoung, Park Ji-Hyun, Nam Moon-Chul, Im Sung-Jae, Kim Young-Pil, Lee Hae-Woon
Duration: 111 mins.
By Paul Bramhall
There’s something morbidly funny about those movies that take a character and strain them to the point where they become completely unhinged. Jack Nicholson inside The brilliantChristian Bale American psychoNatalie Portman at Black Swan – the cinematic landscape is filled with classic examples of characters being pushed to the breaking point, and often the journey to reach that point is as nerve-wracking as the events that unfold once they inevitably break. One of my favorite Korean movies deals with the same theme in the form of 2004 Faceless beauty, which stars Kim Hye-soo in the lead role of a woman suffering from a personality disorder, and the consequences that come with being hypnotized by a psychiatrist. Nearly 20 years later, director and screenwriter Jung Ji-yeon has revisited similar territory with her debut film The Anchor.
As the titular anchor, actress Chun Woo-hee (Unlocked, Idol) role choices always make her worth watching, and here she plays the announcer on the nine o’clock news of a popular TV channel. After receiving a mysterious call moments before airing from a woman claiming she and her daughter are about to be killed, once the broadcast ends, Woo-hee decides to go to the address provided by the woman to validate the fact that everyone dismissed it as a joke. call. Found the bodies of both her mother and her daughter, when the police declare it a murder-suicide she decides to start investigating herself, but things start to get disturbing when visions of his dead mother begin to plague Woo-hee in his daily life.
Life was already not easy at home. Separated from her husband, Woo-hee’s stress is further confounded by her constantly haranguing mother who pushes her deeper into the investigation, believing that if she gets to the bottom of her deaths she will be great. occasion of her. Played by Lee Hye-young (In front of your face, The Devil’s Game), her role as the pushy alcoholic mother contrasts effectively with Woo-hee’s even more calm and collected one, and tensions between the two often boil over. After a chance encounter with the victim’s psychiatrist played by Shin Ha-kyun (extreme work, Empire of lust), Woo-hee agrees to be hypnotized by him, believing the truth may be buried in her memory of visiting the scene. However, Ha-kyun himself seems to be hiding something, and it seems Woo-hee may unknowingly be playing right into the killer’s hands.
For a directorial debut, Jung Ji-yeon juggles many different genre elements with a steady hand. The workplace pressure of having someone waiting in the wings eager to take on your role is reminiscent of scenarios played out in the likes of Hong Won-chan Office and Kim Tae-yong Incorrect behavior, while the ghostly apparitions resort to scares that anyone familiar with the genre will see coming. The fact that The Anchor it seems like it only flutters with its surface-level genre influences – whether horror, psychology, or murder mystery – it could be seen either way. Either a welcome compromise that allows the story to unfold organically, or a disappointment that fails to fully commit to any of them, the most obvious being that of horror.
While genre fusion was something Korea seemed to be doing successfully over and over again in the 2000s, as the industry became more commercialized, it’s not a trait that has disappeared, but rather one that is no longer performed with the same finesse that we used to see before . In The Anchor elements as disparate as family drama, mystery and supernatural horror are thrown together, but the passages between them result in a feeling of uneven pacing and the sense of momentum the audience is supposed to feel towards the conclusion feels lacking.
Matters aren’t helped by yet another disappointing role from Shin Ha-kyun. One of the defining faces of the Korean Wave in the 2000s, Ha-kyun’s memorable transformations into the likes of Guns and speeches, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Save the green planet AND Thirst it made him an actor who always seemed up for a challenge. However, since the mid-2010s, Ha-kyun has increasingly found himself playing rather mundane and uninspired supporting or villain roles in the likes of Great match AND The wickedness (not to mention title 20th Century Fox’s disastrous foray into the Korean market with 2013 Running Man). Here her character as a psychiatrist is yet another bland performance that feels like it could have been played by anyone, and the opportunity to instill a sense of mystery around her motivations seems sorely lacking.
That said, however tried and tested horror tropes may be, it does provide a welcome change to see them played out in a well-lit newsroom, rather than the familiar dark environments in which audiences are used to seeing such ghostly events unfold. The Anchor she is at her best when she is able to take full advantage of the double threat facing Woo-hee: that of a violent apparition who seems intent on strangling her on air, coupled with the risk that her behavior on air results in losing everything she has worked so hard for.
In the end, even though Ji-yeon’s directorial debut seems a little too transparent in what he’s trying to achieve, which sees the biggest problem with The Anchor being that it lays the cards on the table a little too early in the narrative. While on paper Ji-yeon’s script may feel like he’s playing them close to his chest, on screen it doesn’t quite translate, and how some characters interact (or don’t interact) with each other will have those who even have a passing familiarity with psychological thrillers being able to predict the ending. With such narratives they depend on the audience being the last to know what is really going on, the fact that The Anchor allows the viewer to guess what is going on before any of the characters look like damage. Consequently, the cathartic denunciation to which the aforementioned examples of the genre have so successfully led here ends up being somewhat of a muted anti-climax.
This is exacerbated by the fact that the final scenes attach a high level of importance to a plot point just mentioned (and literally lying on the floor in an earlier scene), suggesting that the overall message was different than most narrative has been focused up to this point. Diverging from horror or mystery territory altogether, it seems Ji-yeon wanted to use the storyline as a framework around the importance of family, sending any revelation into an out-of-place melodrama at odds with everything we’ve seen so far. While Korean cinema is often guilty of diving into tearful melodramas when it comes to endings (see horror The eighth night and action movies Murder confession for similar examples), never makes it any easier to swallow when the jarring tonal shift comes, and it’s certainly no different here.
When the credits rolled, I was left with the distinct impression that Ji-yeon will be a talent to watch in the future. The Anchor it struggles with many ideas and genres, but its biggest mystery was done enough times before audiences got to see it early enough in the runtime. It is to Ji-yeon’s credit that for the most part the narrative remains engaging and most will carry it to the end. While the final direction the story goes in makes the focus and pacing seem a little out of place, Woo-hee anchors proceedings (pun intended) with another stellar performance, allowing The Anchor to remain watchable even through some of its rougher areas.
Paul Bramhall’s assessment: 5.5/10