Into the Mirror (Geoul sokeuro)

Former police sharp shooter, Woo Young-Min, played by Yu Ji-Tae (Attack the Gas Station, Natural City, Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) is given a job by his rich uncle as chief of security at his upmarket department store. Just days before the store is due to re-open after fire damage has been repaired a young female worker is found dead in the bathroom. At first it seems like a suicide, but certain things just don’t add up. Woo finds himself in a race against time to prevent further deaths, all the while coming into conflict with a former police colleague who is heading up the official investigation.

Director and writer Kim Seong-ho's second feature is a highly stylised hybrid of the now recognisable Asian ghost stories, complete with slow build up and freaky scenes and the Italian Giallo genre with a visual quality that echoes some of Argento's high concept work and elements of Mario Bava's classic Blood and Black Lace.

The opening scene which ends in the very effective image used on the DVDs cover is an outstanding piece of Asian creepiness; you know what's coming but when it does its still shocking and effective. I love the way so much of Asian, particularly Japanese and films like this which, although Korean, certainly is heavily influenced by the cinema from the land of the rising sun, manage to make the inanimate feel so creepy and play on everyday fears, little phobias that we live with and generally pay no heed. I'm sure at some point, maybe because of lack of sleep, most of us have thought we saw something in the mirror that was not quite right out of the corner of our eye, but what if it was really there? And that really is the basic premise of Into the Mirror.

Into the Mirror is a genre hoping piece that jumps between, revenge, horror, and drama and murder mystery with ease. Filled with some really great visuals and stylised scenes (no never-ending handheld laziness here), that mean Into the Mirror looks great. There are some great special effects but the director uses them carefully never turning the film into a CGI fest, learning from those great Italian giallo films that have obviously influenced this that it's not just what you see, what you don’t see can be just as effective. Midway through the film we even get treated to a killer of whom pretty much the only thing visible in the shot is the now iconic giallo black gloves.

The cast all do a great job in their various roles with no over-acting and the characters for the most part are well fleshed out and three dimensional, which is essential if you’re going to care what happens to them. The sub-plot's and back stories for the characters give the film a deeper sense than other films in the genre and it's nice to see more than just cheep scares and generic twisty girlie ghosts. The troubled young character of Woo not only faces the entity in the mirror but also has to face up to his own trouble past and the figures that come back to haunt him including his former colleague who in parts blames him for his old partners death although not as much as Woo blames himself.

The only thing which lets the solid storyline down a little is the attempt to create a mythology around mirrors and the universe that may exist within, there's not really enough time or space in the movie to really get this right and sometimes the supernatural is best left unexplained, how ever it does make for a cool little twist at the end of this tale.

High style, genre hoping, Giallo homage, effective characterisation and some generic but well executed Asian ghostly creepiness make Into the Mirror a worthy edition to any fan of the genre's collection.