Lim Dae-Woong’s The House of the Disappeared is a remake of The House at the End of Time (2013, Alejandro Hidalgo), which showed at Fantasia in 2014. Lim’s version is as well done as the original, but not treated in an identical manner. The original is a psychological suspense story, and is good at building anticipation in a quiet, creeping manner. It doesn’t have much frill or special effects. Lim’s creation is more of a horror-thriller, and therefore throws in a few expected Hollywood style jump-scares, and certain stylistic ‘staged’ sets (such as very decoratively arranged cobwebs). However, the director claims to be a funny guy, and added a few lighter, silly moments to offset the tension. Also new in the Korean version are family illnesses, violent spouses, and a supernatural aspect.
Without spoiling the twists, this is a story where the timeline isn’t always concrete. Not everything is linear, and that’s okay. As with the original, the loose ends are eventually tied. Not all audiences will ‘get’ that – which is also okay, because the film feels like it may mean to do that. The confusion assists the horror aspect of the plot. The twists themselves are well executed, as is the acting. Star Kim Yunjin (known to most Westerners for her role in JJ Abrams’s LOST) delivers a believably distraught mother. Perhaps the small letdown is that the relationship seen in the original film between children (siblings, friends) is near absent. Because the ties are less apparent, this takes away from some of the emotional impact. In Hidalgo’s version, we are not only concerned about the mother’s point of view, but also the connection between the children. That said, if a viewer only knows Lim’s version, this would become a non-issue. His take is more about motherhood, and as such, does its job.
The House of the Disappeared screens at the Fantasia Festival. JS De Seve Theatre (Concordia), July 20th, 2017 at 3:30 pm.