KOREA 2008 Directed by: Yoon Hong-Seung Written by: Kim Eun-Kyeong, Yoon Hong-Seung Produced by: Kim Kwang-Seop, Seong-Been Cinematography by: Heo Seong-Ryong Editing by: Yu Yeong-Ju Music by: Kim Jun-Seong Cast: Nam Gyu-Ri, Kim Beom, Lee Beom-Su, Yun Jeong-Hee, Lee Chae-Won, Moon Woong-Ki, Kong Jeong-Hwan, Son Yeo-Eun, Eun Jung, Son Ho-Jun, Kwon Hyeon-Sang
If, I mean just if, you are interested to find out how BATTLE ROYALE looks like when transferred to a Korean School, then DEATH BELL might be your thing. I guess ripping off Japanese movies is some sort of late revenge.
A school in the middle of god-knows-where, students being killed one by one by some lunatic who is playing SAW with them, a mysterious past – ready is the Korean instant teen horror. There isn’t much more to the story really, so let’s move on.
DEATH BELL follows genre conventions in almost convulsive fashion: giving away some parts of its puzzle early on, the movie is scripted A-Z style. We learn about the school, its teachers and students, who the good guys and who the bad guys are, learn about relationships, then the killer strikes and the game begins. One down, twenty to go.
Along the way DEATH BELL presents some candidates who run for murderer, so you might want to take your pick and see if you’re right or not. The ending is predictable except for the “why?” question: the movie finally not only reveals who the killer is, but also his motifs. The conclusion is pretty far-fetched, so don’t pretend you saw that comin’: it’s not a bad ending, but it certainly is highly constructed.
While its script is standard, DEATH BELL is also anything but creative as far as the deaths are concerned. The least genre fans would expect are somewhat outstanding killings (that sounds terrible, doesn’t it); ever since FINAL DESTINATION we are spoiled, accepting only the most extraordinary hack-and-slash. Yoon Hong-Seung has forgotten about that (and it’s even more important to remember that if you have nothing else to offer).
DEATH BELL however is very content with being average and puts little effort into trying to excel. With its formal aspects being not much of an aspect the lackluster death scenes and random riddles the students have to solve have a hard time to keep us awake.
I managed though, but I don’t remember how. Don’t believe the hype: DEATH BELL is an average horror flick, catering to average expectations.