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Resurrection of the Butterfly
Resurrection of the Butterfly

Lee Moo-Saeng as a not-very-nice Japanese general in Resurrection of the Butterfly
Year: 2007  
Director: Kim Min-Sook, Lee Jung-Kook  
Writer: Kim Min-Sook, Lee Jung-Kook  

Lee Moo-Saeng, Jeon Bo-Yeong, Myung Seon-Hoon, Choi Jung-Ryul, Oh Chang-Kyung

  The Skinny:

This horror omnibus film gets points for being an ambitious work with a low budget, but the execution of their killer concept never gets further than square one.

Kevin Ma:

      With the Asian horror genre having been so thoroughly explored in recent years, finding an original concept to hook people is half the battle. That battle is fought but not exactly won in the two-part Korean horror film The Resurrection of the Butterfly. The film gets bonus points for attempting an ambitious film that spans two different periods, while using an independent film's budget (it was also shot on digital video). However, the filmmakers are unable to do much to get beyond the initial concept.
     The first section by director Kim Min-Sook takes place in late 16th century during the Japanese occupation, and is presented as the alternate version of a Korean folk legend. The legend supposedly tells the story of Nongae, a geisha who committed suicide by falling off a cliff, while dragging a Japanese general cliff along with her out of patriotism. However, the alternate version supposes what would happen if she had failed in her attempt and is killed in the process by Japanese soldiers. Instead of Nongae, the film centers on Kimura, the Japanese general that she tried to kill. Kim's story doesn't truly explore the consequences of Nongae's failure and simply reverts to traditional horror elements as Nongae's spirit returns to haunt the general. In turn, the general is slowly tormented to the point of madness by various illusions and creepy going-ons.
     Clued by the lack of a backstory, as Kim never explains that his film is the alternate version of anything, the audience slowly realizes that Kim left his ambitions at the starting point. We repeatedly see scenes of Nongae appearing in different places and people reacting in fear, which would happen in any other horror film with scorned spirits. Thankfully, Kim never resorts to cheap sound scares to shock his audience, instead relying on atmosphere to incite fear. A young up-and-comer, Kim does have the talent to make an effective horror film, but he needs to set his eyes on a smaller story.
     The second section by Lee Jung-Kook is the better half because it does stick to a smaller story. Told in flashbacks, Lee builds a love triangle thriller that doesn't really have anything to do with Kim's story except that it employs the same actors and a love triangle. It begins with Jae Jin, a lost hiker who slowly tries to piece together his mountain trip with fiancée Young Sin and how it all went wrong when a stranger, Seong Hyun, shows up as their guide. While it does refer back to the first film (especially the symbol of the butterfly and the "spirit-pacifying flower"), Lee's section belongs strictly to the realm of a psychological thriller with the usual surprise twist in the end. Here, Lee doesn't face the pressure posed by an established ancient tale and manages to make a more satisfying film. The result isn't fresh or surprising, but Lee does deliver an effective ending twist - though the motivation of his villain isn't similarly effective.
     When put together, the horror double feature takes independent filmmaking in a positive direction, showing that a limited budget can still put together a set of technically well-made horror films. However, the film seems to remain in the conceptualization stage and fails to bring these ideas any further from the drawing table. Furthermore, the filmmakers don't seem to be reaching anywhere beyond Korea, as the primary backstory needed to even understand the idea of the film isn't even mentioned. Thankfully, an understanding of the folktale isn't necessary to understand the film, but the filmmakers are doing a disservice by not telling it. Worst of all, that disservice is not to the audience, but to the filmmakers themselves. (Kevin Ma 2008)


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Lumix Media
4:3 Letterbox Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / Dolby Stereo 2.0
Removable English Subtitles


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