The Cut (Tae-young Son, 2007)
[note: review originally published 10Jan2010]
When I started watching The Cut (also known as Cadaver, not to be confused with the Thai movie of the same name released in 2006), I had incredibly high hopes for it. The first half of this mystery/horror flick is simply phenomenal, as Derek Son (probably best-known in the U.S. for being the co-screenwriter for Joon-ho Bong’s breakout hit Flanders’ Dog) sets up the characters and hands us a really compelling mystery. Then, suddenly, we get to the second half, and the movie becomes a combination of a retread of a number of other recent movies (Vital and Unrest are obvious antecedents) and unimaginative slasher film with supernatural elements. The first half of the movie reminds me of those big ensemble work dramas so big in western fiction in the seventies (think Rona Jaffe or Jeffrey Archer here) that moved over to the film world in the eighties (Diner, The Big Chill, etc.), and since I’m a complete sucker for that stuff, I was sucked right in. Then it all went to hell. This is the story of how.
We open with Eun-joo (credited here only as Soy) arriving for her first year at medical school. She’s done well in her pre-med classses, acing them all, but she quickly finds out that when it comes to dealing with actual bodies, she’s got something of a weak stomach. She falls in with a group of pals who she hopes will help her out: Sun-hwa (Capital Scandal‘s Ji-min Han), the first of the group to befriend her; Ji-Young (Kichin‘s Yoon-seo Chae), who seems less interested in medical school than in hooking up with Eun-joo; Joong-Suk (Bloody Ties‘ Ju-wan On), the class clown, and his longtime friend and straight man Kyung-Min (Three Kims‘ Won-ju Moon), and Ki-Bum (Oldboy‘s Tae-kyung Oh), the group’s unofficial leader. Their first day of classes, the professor presents each group in the class with a cadaver. When Eun-joo attempts to make the first cuts, her hands are shaking too badly; after being mocked by their teacher, Professor Han, she flees the room. That night, Eun-joo heads back to the autopsy room alone to try and conquer her fear; the next morning, however, the rest of the group find her strapped to an autopsy table herself, brutally murdered. Another of the group goes unaccountably insane soon after, and the remaining members are left trying to figure out what’s going on. When they all start having the same nightmare, Sun-hwa becomes convinced the cadaver the group is using is the problem…
Actually, now that I type it out like that, wow. It’s a veritable remake of Unrest, though as is to be expected, the atmosphere and acting are better here than they are there. Also, Son takes such time and care with his setup that when the movie falls off the cliff halfway through, it’s that much more of a disappointment. I guess for what it is, it’s not a horrible movie; there are just such better ones to compare it to that tread much the same ground (I’ve already mentioned Tsukoamoto’s incredible 2004 film Vital, probably the closest Asian analogue, though cadaver-horror is popular enough since 1999’s EM Embalming to practically qualify as its own Asian horror subgenre that someone looking for examples won’t have to look too far in the video store) that it pales in comparison to almost anything one might bother to compare it to. Perhaps this is why it’s still so obscure in America that it hasn’t rated its own IMDB page as of this writing (11 January 2010). Watch it for the first half, and then you can ignore the rest. * ½
The description notes that one of the English translations of the title is Cute of the Class. Obviously.