Be My Guest -- Film Review

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BUSAN, South Korea -- There have been any number of films that meld the conventions of horror with comedy to brilliant effect over the years. "Scream" and "The Evil Dead" spring to mind. In that vein, "Be My Guest" throws its hat into the ring to middling effect. A furious labor activist confronts a family on a day-trip in the country, and the torture he inflicts upon them is the basis for an unusually shrill examination of the fragility of the family unit.

The generally hysterical tone of "Be My Guest" is likely to keep it from a wide release outside its native Korea and the undisciplined storytelling will stop it from crossing over elsewhere. Specialized genre festivals might show modest interest, but even that's a stretch.

Mr. Um (Kim Byung-chun) takes his wife, kids Tae-hyun and Ju-hyun and brother-in-law Min-ho away for a day to the kind of isolated country house that's perfect for a "Friday the 13th"-style murder spree. Faster than you can say Jason Voorhees, angry laid-off worker Kim (Lee Kyung-young) starts picking off the family one at a time -- leg here, an arm there, a couple of ears. Eventually a battle of wits develops and the (literally) crippled family gets the upper hand when a helpful passerby lends assistance (yes, at an isolated country house). But Tae-hyun (Kang In-hyung) kills Kim with an unregistered gun and that puts the Good Samaritan in a tricky spot. It also sets off a second bloodbath.

"Be My Guest" uses elements of cheesy, low-budget slasher films without saying much at all about the Um family and its willingness to rip itself apart or the uneasy relationship between management and labor that starts the story. Problems lie in the slapsticky comedy and the absence of a clear vision: Are we meant to be concentrating on the family's penchant for violence or on the damage big business can do when it puts its bottom line above its workers? Things just get muddier when the cover-up of Tae-hyun's crime begins. Horror can be a great metaphor for the topics so flittingly touched on here with no real follow-through.

Director Park Soo-young clearly understands the genre's tropes, and he's delved into an arena not common in Korean cinema. However, that doesn't make "Guest" much more than the beginnings of a better film -- one with a sharper knife for what it's observing (see: "Severance").

Section: Pusan International Film Festival -- Midnight Passion

Production companies: 503w
Cast: Kim Byung-chun, Lee Hyun-jung, Kim Jin-su, Kang In-hyung, Kim Kkobbi, Lee Kyung-young, Park Young-su
Director: Park Soo-young
Screenwriter: Lee Sun-taek
Producer: Lee Seung-pyu
Director of Photography: Cha Sang-kyun
Production Designer: Shim Ina
Music: Jung Jae-whan
Editor: Choi Hyun-sik
No rating, 79 minutes
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