Box Office Rec: The Red Shoes

Oh translators, how you curse a film for US distribution before it's even viewed in the country. Perhaps not calling a film The Red Shoes when, in fact, the color is oversaturated to a brilliant magenta in every scene would mean people wouldn't be against the film due to title discrepancy alone. Recall that Box Office Rec has been revised to the last 5 years due to the regular glut of quality films over the summer movie-going season.
Box Office Rec: The Red Shoes (Bunhongsin) I'll admit that I really enjoy foreign horror films, especially localized interpretations of ghost stories. The 2005 Korean film The Red Shoes falls somewhere between the Japanese Tomie series anguished spirit and the grizzly deaths of a Dario Argentogiallo. In other words, right up my alley.
An Optometrist takes her daughter and leaves her husband to open up her own clinic and get a fresh start at life. Her one vice in life is an insatiable appetite for shoes, advanced to the point that she has her own department store-like display system in the middle of her new tiny apartment. When she encounters a one of a kind pair of bright red suede heels on the subway, she has to have them. Unfortunately, so does every other woman who sees them. It turns out these shoes have a certain power over men and women alike, and the key lies in the identity of an unknown model (even unknown to the ad agency) seen modeling the exact shoes in a nationwide advertising campaign. Did this girl meet the same fate as those who dare to wear the shoes? Or something far worse than a vanity induced death? How hard can it be to get an accurate description of a film's actual story on a DVD case?
Apparently impossible, judging by the entire foreign film section (excuse me, now it's called "Special Interest") at Blockbuster. No wonder horror fans haven't seen this well acted, well written, gorgeous horror film that puts a new spin on a very overplayed plot style. Ringu certainly gave horror a swift kick in the pants, but unfortunately resulted in many copycat films. Which is why an Asian ghost story with deaths like The Red Shoes goes ignored.
A pervasive sense of dread fills every frame of the film, as the shoes quickly make their power known. The dialogue goes from highly realistic everyday interactions into darn-near satirical commentary on fashion (more sophisticated versions of: Woman- Don't my red shoes and tight clothes make me sexually attractive to all men? Man - Do me. Do me now. I can't resist your tight designer dress and killer red heels!; or, even worse, small scale reenactments of The Running of the Brides, only between a young girl, her mother, and an older friend, wrestling on the floor over who deserves to wear the titular red heels). The story hit me right. The characters were mostly intelligent, though the ghastly presence was smarter in its tricks. What could have been extremely sexist and offensive comes across as sleek, modern, and scary, just like a good horror film should.
Horror is supposed to cast a light on society's ills in a terrifying way in the same manner a fairy tale exaggerates the trappings of life to teach a lesson. So few horror attempt to do that anymore, and even fewer succeed. The Red Shoes does.
Labels: Box Office rec