Director: In Soo Kim
Year of release: 2000
Country of origin: South Korea
Running time: 91 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Also known as: Haebyeoneuro Gada
Tagline: "This beach will suck your life away".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Eight friends who have become acquainted with each other in an internet chat room decide to meet up together for the first time for a holiday at a beach house by the sea. On route however before she can meet up with the others, one of the chat room club is murdered. Believing the lady we have just seen killed to have ditched them in favor of meeting up with her boyfriend the rest of the group proceed with the holiday as planned, not realising anything is amiss. As they have fun at the beach and flirt with one another several of those in the group seem more effected than others over the recent news that a former member of the group that they all knew by the screen name Sandmanzz has purportedly committed suicide. Sandmanzz was apparently seen as a bit of a desperate weirdo who was kicked out of the group after rubbing most of them up the wrong way. After a couple of the group who go off together in a car to make out are discovered dead and others receive ominous warnings it becomes apparent that Sandmanzz is perhaps not dead after all and is in fact along for the ride on the holiday himself intent on bloody revenge over those that shunned him.
Good points: The location of the picturesque house on the coast is a good one which lends to some impressive shots and cinematography. There is also a well done underwater sequence where two characters go scuba diving which provides us with visually something we usually don't see in these types of films. All in all the camera work and direction looks polished and professional with some interesting shots on occasion like how the camera travels down the modem/internet wires.
The right balance is struck with the use of blood as we see enough to satisfy without it being too much and over the top to the point where it takes center stage over everything else. You can tell that there hasn't been a huge amount spent on special effects but what they do show is more than passable with a few solid kills included, one of which is reminiscent of The Burning. Also there is a cleverly put together death type scene involving someone being buried in sand which looks really cool.
The identity of the killer is effectively concealed. I don't think anyone watching the film for the first time would be able to pick out for sure who it is until the film wants us to know which is shortly before the final girl finds out. The story of the chat group all meeting up for the first time after only knowing each other as screen names previously plays into the mystery surrounding the killer as none of them know what any of the others truly look like or what the Sandmanzz himself looks like so it would be easy for someone to infiltrate the holiday with bad intentions.
Regarding the story I did like it as although it is very simple it is a good way of bringing them all together via the premise of the internet chat room which was probably quite original and hip at the time it came out in 2000. There are problems with it as we'll go into in a moment but the idea of the characters meeting up for the first time because of a chat room served the film well as the bare bones skeleton of it's story.
With this being a foreign film I should mention the language options which are subtitles in this case. They are well done for the most part and although the odd word here and there seems out of place it is absolutely fine most of the time. One small issue is that at one point the final girl hears motorcycle noises shortly before and after a deathscene which leads her to suspect a guy on a motorcycle later. The subtitles didn't mention the sounds though so if you are watching late at night with the volume turned down quite low as I was it is easy to miss which makes it slightly confusing later. What the subtitles should have done is say something like "Distant motorcycle revving". For the most part though they are fine.
Bad Points: Not much thought has been put into the killers appearance. As you can see on the artwork there is a kind of black hat and dark outfit with the killer only being shown early on from obscured view shots or close ups of his boots etc so it isn't as if they are dressed completely normally but it isn't far off. Once the killer is revealed what little costume we did have goes out the window as well which makes it seem less scary.
The biggest disappointment I would say is that there is no reveal as to what the specific circumstances were that caused the eight members of the group to dislike Sandmanzz. We needed more detail here with characters opening up about past exchanges that they had had with him which led to them becoming upset and thus being rude to him or ignoring him. It is revealed that one of the characters spread a lie to get him kicked out of the group but it isn't even revealed what the lie was. I don't know why the filmmakers were so lazy in presenting this information to us as with more detail what was already a strong backbone of a story could have been fleshed out into something great. I was hoping it was going to be made clear at the end as to what the specific reason was for everyone disliking the guy or what the lie was that was spread about him which supposedly pushed him over the edge into suicide but nothing ever came. It could have turned out to be a commentary on online bullying and trolling but it was never really allowed to properly get off the ground. It was also hinted at that the internet was all Sandmanzz had as if he was disabled or something and couldn't work so instead spent all his time online but again the circumstances were never properly explored.
Things are also a bit confusing when it is revealed that one of the group knows that Sandmanzz isn't really dead and is actually in email contact with him. I think they even say this character posed as Sandmanzz, sending out warnings using his handle. It isn't properly explained though what the characters motivation was for doing this. They do justify it a little by hinting he wanted the others to feel remorse for how they treated Sandmanzz but as we don't know how they treated him or what the relationship is between this guy and the Sandmanzz himself it just comes across as confusing.
Verdict: After a good start it ultimately felt like a bit of a let down due to the back story of Sandmanzz's history in the group not being properly explained but I still enjoyed it quite a lot. It's nothing special or anything too spectacular and probably wouldn't convert anyone new to the genre but for those of us that like this sort of thing it is a fun way to spend an hour and a half. Worth tracking down for a look I'd say if you can find it.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Girl on train: Stabbed through the neck.
2) Boy making out in car: Killed off camera.
3) Girl making out in car: Wounded in the car and then stabbed through the top of the skull.
4) Boy with glasses: Fingers chopped off and then decapitated with garden shears.
5) Random motorcyclist: Run over by a car.
6) Boy tied up in room: Legs hacked up with a hatchet.
7) Girl found in closet: Killed off camera, appeared to have a chest wound.