The Pot -- Film Review

BOTTOM LINE: Derivative drama thriller starts strong but can't keep up the pace.

Pusan International Film Festival
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Substitute the more Western concept of demonic possession for ghosts and you'll get a vaguely Asian version of "Rosemary's Baby," which is exactly how "The Pot" begins. The setup and early sequences are misleading, however, as the film soon devolves into a rambling and unfocused groaner about the impact of too much faith, ambition and greed on a family among other things. On top of that, there is no significant pot anywhere to be seen.

Korean cinema has been looking for the next big horror-informed family drama since the success of "A Tale of Two Sisters" in 2003. For overseas exhibitors, there's nothing in "The Pot" that hasn't been done better, and for Asian audiences the same holds true; the cast of relative unknowns won't be a draw regionally, and the mediocre production values -- again poorly lit HD -- won't win a wide release.

The central mystery in "The Pot" isn't very mysterious at all and will be easily spotted by seasoned Asian horror veterans. Factory manager Hyung-suk (Lim Hyung-kuk) moves his pregnant wife Young-ae (Yang Eun-yong) and daughter Mi-ae (Ruy Hyun-bin) to Seoul after he bails his old friend Dong-sik (Lee Song-min) out of bankruptcy. From minute one things get weird around the house, with the increasingly aggressive Mi-ae suddenly carrying a grudge toward her mother and mom having odd dreams involving her unborn baby. To make matters worse, the fanatical Christian neighbors have set their sight on Mi-ae. Suspicion breeds fears, which in turn breeds tragedy, bringing the family to the brink of disaster.

Writer-director Kim Tae-gon's debut feature relies too heavily on the genre's conventions, but not in a novel way that exploits our now-ingrained expectations. The fragility of the family is at the heart of the drama but is never fully explored. The devout Deaconess Chang (Gil Hae-yeon of "Mapado") livens things up with her creepy peacefulness, but beyond that none of the characters leaves the kind of impression they should.

The film's biggest problem is simply not knowing what it wants to be and what themes it most wants to tackle. "The Pot" randomly picks up and drops its plot threads and is 20 minutes too long. More judicious editing could have tightened the narrative and created a tone that would have been an advantage given the familiar material.

Cast: Lim Hyung-kuk, Yang Eun-yong, Choi Jung-woo, Gil Hae-yeon, Ruy Hyun-bin, Lee Song-min.
Director-screenwriter: Kim Tae-gon.
Producer: Jeon Pil-do.
Director of photography: Hong Sung-jin.
Production designer: Kim So-yeon.
Music: Park Sung-hun.
Editor: Lee Sang-min.
Sales agent: Kim Tae-gon.
No rating, 112 minutes.
production: Graduate School of Advanced Imaging Science, Multimedia & Film; KM Culture.