Guimoon starts off with a great formula. An experienced shaman commits suicide after attempting to exorcise a murderous spirit from an abandoned building. Her son returns to finish what she started, by creating a ritual door to step through and enter a middle space where the living and dead alike can walk. His plan – free all the trapped souls and remove the malignant entity. So far, great stuff.
Enter three college students who are trying to do a Blair Witch with their handheld camera. Their hope? To capture some horrific footage as submission to a video contest that can pay for tuition. Mmm, not so great, but I’ll bite.
There’s promise to be had here, pitting skeptics (as cliche in characterisation as they are) against a seasoned spiritual warrior, and Guimoon ladles out the scares with equal parts of dread and shock early on. It is sadly the latter half that spirals out of director’s Shim Duck-geun’s hands, as the missions collapse quickly under familiar tropes that are less imaginative, with nary the original motivations in sight.
Kim Kang Woo as Do-jin the young shaman has an intensity that lends itself to some taut scenes. Even through intense close-ups, he’s able to finesse a range of expressions, giving us some truly tense moments. This however gets a little overplayed later on, with him lashing out dramatically for no solid reason. For the students, the reverse is true. They seem to act awkwardly in the face of danger, and sometimes having amnesia to the escalating madness and each acting as a catalyst for another to be placed in harm’s way. It’s a little convenient to say the least.
It’s a shame because the intention could have led to a richer story. We were just made to find out a little more about the residents of the building, lending an emotional element to the exorcism, before the writer completely abandoned that arc for no reason. And when the students want to escape, their random encounters deflate the sequence and pacing to make it all rather unexciting.
There’s great moments, no doubt. Some of the best dread occurs early on, with clever play of audio and camerawork planting the horror, but this gives up a little too early to enter slash and gore zone, with a twist that doesn’t have the intended impact due to obvious early signals. With some rework, Guimoon could have been outstanding and played out a story of grief, vengeance and even societal issues, but instead it sputters out with a lazy last act, and becomes a wasted medicare piece.