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Paradise Murdered
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Paradise Murdered

DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
KD Media
2-Disc Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Audio Commentaries, “Making Of” Featurette, Art Direction Featurette, Evidence - Makeup, Wardrobe, Suspects - Character Profiles, Deleted Scenes, Press Conference, Witness – Preview, Photo Gallery, Ghost Story - Paradise Murdered Initial Model
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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AKA: Paradise 1986
Korean: 극락도 살인사건
Year: 2007
Director: Kim Han-Min
Producer: Choi Do-Yeong
Writer: Kim Han-Min

Park Hae-Il, Sung Ji-Ru, Park Sol-Mi, Cho Chu-Bang, Park Won-Sang, Ah Nae-Sang, Kim In-Mun, Yu He-Chang, Park Gil-Soo, Lee Dae-Yeon, Ku Beun-Chin, Cheong Yeo-Lin, Lee Ta-Wi

The Skinny: Your typical Agatha Christie-style whodunit gets a Korean makeover in Paradise Murdered, a seriocomic murder mystery set on remote island off the coast of Korea. An excellent setup and an interesting approach to the material are marred, however, by a too-obvious culprit and a final revelation that deflates – rather than punctuates – all that came before it.

Review by Calvin McMillin: Popularized by British writers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the classical detective story and its formula should be familiar to anyone who’s ever read anything by Agatha Christie or at least played the board game Clue: a murder occurs in an Edenic, but remote location, the readers are introduced to a limited amount of possible suspects, and the investigation is carried out by a detective who uses his keen rational mind to deduce the identity of the killer and bring order out of chaos. There are variations to this structure, but these are undoubtedly the key elements of the genre, especially during the so-called “Golden Age of Detective Fiction.” Now in the twenty-first century, writer-director Kim Han-Min has adapted these elements for his debut film, Paradise Murdered which takes this all-too-familiar formula – in particular, the premise of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians – and localizes it for Korean audiences.

Instead of a stately mansion somewhere in the English countryside, the setting of the film is a small island off the southern coast of Korea. This no-less Edenic locale is called “Paradise Island” by the locals, but it’s perhaps no coincidence that a slight change in accent on the original Hangeul changes the name to the more ominous-sounding, “Evil Island.” And evil is seemingly afoot in this secluded paradise when, one-by-one, the islanders start dropping like flies. Paradise Island boasts only seventeen citizens, thus limiting the pool of suspects and staying true to the set-up of a typical detective story. The year is 1986, so the villagers have no access to cell phones, the Internet, or any other modern conveniences that would expedite a call to the proper authorities and put a stop to the murders. So when someone smashes the radio, their only means of communication, the already isolated Paradise Island becomes totally cut off from the outside world.

While there’s certainly no Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes on hand to solve the mystery, the denizens of this island do have the help of a keen, rational man of science, a respected young doctor from the mainland named Woo-Sung (Park Hae-Il). But who is the killer? Was it the town simpleton who has subsequently gone missing? Is it the enigmatic mayor who is somehow pulling the strings of this ghastly crime-spree? Or is the cause supernatural, as some islanders believe? The appearance of a ghostly woman around town all but confirms this suspicion. Or is it simply a case of one villager gone amok? As the saying goes, everyone is a suspect. Everyone. With the help of the beautiful teacher and possible love interest named Gwi-Nam (Sung Ji-Ru), the good doctor tries to piece everything together the clues in order to save the remaining villagers…and himself.

Despite its ties to the larger tradition of detective fiction, Paradise Murdered does differ from its ancestors in terms of tone. The film veers from wild comedy to serious mystery to gory horror from one scene to the next. Surprisingly, director Kim San-Min almost pulls it off. The sheer silliness of the characters in the opening scenes – from their amusing country bumpkin accents to their downright comical behavior – make for a surprising and delightful change of pace from the typical detective story. To have that comic tone occupy the typically serious frame of a detective story and then occasionally be punctuated by scenes of gore turns out to be a mostly successful balancing act. The closest comparison I could make would be to place this film alongside Edgar Wright’s Michael Bay send-up, Hot Fuzz, which combined buddy cop hijinks, a mystery plot straight from the playbook of The Wicker Man, and gory giallo-style kills. But unlike that popular British film, Paradise Murdered doesn’t cohere successfully.

To explain all the carnage, the film throws a number of possible solutions at the viewer – a vengeful ghost, petty jealousy gone wrong, a sociopath run amok – but when it finally gets around to the big reveal, the purportedly “startling revelation” comes across as more than a little underwhelming. For starters, the culprit is telegraphed early on. In fact, he/she is so obvious that I thought it was an intentional red herring, and that there was no possible way that the filmmakers would allow that person to be responsible. And then they did, knocking the wind out of the film’s forward momentum and, quite possibly, the audience themselves.

Back in the olden days, detective fiction was so popular that several enthusiasts and even some practitioners of the genre wrote up sets of rules for what a detective story can and cannot do, i.e. no secret twin brothers, no cheating with the clues, no crime should turn out to be an accident, etc. Of course, these were not so much rules as they were guidelines, but they indicated a certain desire for a contract between the reader and the author that required that the latter “play fair” at all times. In that light, Paradise Murdered violates one of these so-called cardinal rules of the classical detective story, which would be absolutely fine with me if the actual payoff was as big as a twist like this would merit. Unfortunately, it’s not. Certainly, the ending is unconventional in terms of the criminal’s true motives and involvement, but it doesn’t exactly make for a satisfying denouement.

In spite of the creakiness of the film’s final act, I would still call Paradise Murdered a fine debut from writer-director Kim San-Min. Admittedly, the movie is fun for at least half of its running time in large part due to its winning sense of humor and quirky cast of characters. But the lame ending and far-too-obvious culprit of Paradise Murdered undermine much of what came before and ultimately spoils what clearly could have been, at worst, an entertaining diversion and, at best, a modern mystery classic. Paradise Murdered is not quite either of these things, but it comes remarkably close. (Calvin McMillin, 2008)

   Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen