Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Original Title: Choyonghan kajok
Year: 1998
Director: Ji-woon Kim
Writer: Ji-woon Kim
Genre: Dark Comedy

A family decides to buy a lodge in a remote hiking area. Their first customer commits suicide and the distraught family buries his body to avoid the bad publicity. But their luck gets worse, the bodies start piling up, and the family becomes frantic to rectify the situation.

While not exactly a Kang-ho Song vehicle, I threw on The Quiet Family last night and had quite a different experience than the previous films I have covered here this month. Faster paced, less stylistic and darkly funny, this one was quite enjoyable! (Obviously the other flicks have been enjoyable for me, just not in the same way)

No delicate shifts going on this time. Right off the bat you get a good sense of the direction this film is headed. A family has purchased a somewhat remote lodge along a hiking trail, work hard to fix it up, but then get no customers. They all sit around awkwardly, watch people walk by without stopping, eat near-silent dinners together.

After a strange seemingly-insane woman comes up to their lodge screaming at an invisible head on the roof, they finally get their first customer. I loved the scene as the family crowds around him, watching him sign the registry, in disbelief that after so long they have their very first customer.

He is mysterious and creepy, and the morning after they literally stumble upon his corpse. He has brutally committed suicide. The father, Tae-gu Kang (In-hwan Park), believes that a police investigation will ruin their already tiny business, so he makes the decision to bury the lonely man's corpse and pretend it never happened.

And hijinx ensue! Ahhh, good ol' hijinx.

What follows is a dark, gory, and often funny romp where one tragic moment leads to another. It made me smile seeing the characters bothered and exhausted from initially hiding bodies, to it becoming just a thing as they become increasingly desensitized to the craziness going on. There is a great moment later in the film where the son Yeong-min, played by Kang-ho Song, brags about his ability to quickly dig a hole. He even offers to quickly bury a kim-chee pot which gets a laugh from his family.

Kang-ho Song is not the main character here... as that is essentially shared by everyone in the 6-member family, but he is definitely funny. He creeps about the lodge, spies on couples having sex, and acts often like a 13-year-old.

What I may like most about Song's role is his facial expressions when irritated or ecstatic. He will talk with his mouth full and laugh a high pitched laugh. I laughed a lot at just some of his deliveries.

A role I really enjoyed was the mother played by Mun-hee Na. She looks like a sweet, older lady, but this mystique is broken quite early with some snarky comments she makes toward people that pass the lodge without actually coming in. I really laughed when she yells after a guy that he will never get laid acting like he is. A standard film would have the mother of the family be hysterical or in denial or something, but Mrs. Kang gets her hands as dirty as the rest of them. I think Na is very good at sometimes giving a deadpan, sarcastic delivery while still showing shock and surprise at some pretty horrific things that pop up throughout the film.

There are some nice moody shots and closeups dispersed here, but largely this film is straight forward in its presentation and its storytelling. Director Ji-woon Kim, who would later go on to direct A Bittersweet Life which I have mentioned, as well as The Good, The Bad, and The Weird which I reviewed, started his directorial career with this film. It's interesting to see him getting his start in dark comedy such as this, and also his film Foul King which I will cover as well, before moving on to films deeper and broader in scope.

I really like his handing of character interactions in the film, and the quick cutting, especially in scenes of violence, really keep the film feeling nervous and frenetic, unlike the name of the film may let on. It's a constant comedy of errors as the family must correct one gruesome mishap after another. As with most comedies, you just take many things with a grain of salt as there are some coincidences that occur to keep things moving along, but ultimately it works.

I enjoyed Kim's choice in music for the film as well. It is largely American artists... punk sounding music and even a song I could sing along with - So Alive by Love and Rockets. Silly, but I love when that happens!

This film is as light-hearted and silly as possible given the subject matter without ever getting ridiculous. There are corpses and fires and people getting stabbed and smashed with shovels, but it never gets heavy and just borders on absurd. It's not perfect, but i definitely enjoyed it for it's quirkiness.


Score: 7.25 / 10

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