Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp -- Film Review



BUCHEON, South Korea -- The sound and fury of gross-out gore, eardrum-ripping noise effects and a stable of clone-like starlets of plastic beauty signify nothing in "Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp," the alarmingly brainless and sloppily directed follow-up to "Death Bell," a supernatural slasher-thriller that became a summer sleeper hit in Korea in 2008. What the original lacked in budget, it made up for with a plot that gripped with challenging riddles and a surprise (albeit illogical) twist. The sequel by a different director, Yoo Sun Dong, has more cash to burn but couldn't even cobble a plot together beyond the basic premise of a pack of teenagers getting locked up and killed off messily in their high school.

Designed for a summer release like its predecessor, the film's themes of school bullying and cramming may entice post-exam students eager to give their over-drilled brains a vacation. The reputation of the first "Death Bell" could also stimulate broad interest from DVD distributors and genre festivals. Whether this lazy compilation of Korean teen horror, Japanese manga and "Saw" can continue to spin off a franchise like the "Whispering Corridors" series is a question mark.

It's summer break at an elite Korean high school, but the top students stay behind to receive intensive coaching for university entrance exams. Se-hee (Park Ji Yeon) didn't make the grades but her mother bribed the staff to let her join. Hauntings by the ghost of champion swimmer Tae-yeon (Yoon Seung Ah) give students the creeps but their first taste of real fear comes when they discover their head teacher Cha has locked every exit in the building and like Ten Little Indians, they meet a sticky end one by one.

Just as in "Death Bell," the students in the sequel witness their classmates' gruesome murders on a TV screen, with the speaker booming out a question that if answered incorrectly leads to their classmate's death. This time round, the mystery killer does not wait for the answers before executing the victims so the question, which is rhetorical anyway, gets forgotten along the way.

While the original mounted some inventive ways of killing, the sequel just resorts to crude blood-spilling, filmed in poorly lit, hellish camera setups. Only scene worthy of attention is when student Jang-kook is stranded on a corridor and repeatedly attacked by a motorbike outfitted with revolving blades. It has the Gothic, apocalyptic taste of "Mad Max."

Even though a full 30 minutes is spent on introducing the core students who had some entanglement with Tae-yeon, characterization is too insubstantial to build up any reaction, sympathetic or otherwise, when seeing them massacred later. Flashbacks simply confuse. Suspense happens on and off, and is mostly spoiled by scenes of students running around shrieking annoyingly.

The supernatural element which should be integral to the central mystery of the murders ends up as a sideline, with Tae-yeon's ghostly presence more of an excuse to show dripping nymphets in swimsuits. Her true relation to Se-hee is also revealed too early giving away much of the twist. The role of new trainee teacher Miss Park (Hwang Jung Eum) is also predictable.

Venue: Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival
Production companies: NEW presents a Core Contents Media
Cast: Hwang Jung Eum, Park Ji Yeon, Yoon Seung Ah, Yoon Shi Yoon, Kim Suro
Director: Yoo Sun Dong
Producer: Kim Kwang Su
Executive producers: Seo Dong-wook, Kim Kwang Su
Director of photography: Choi Young Taek
Production designer: Lee Shi-hun
Music: Kim Woo Khun
Editor: Steve M. Choe, Lee Jin
Sales: M-Line Distribution
No rating, 83 minutes