NIBBLING AT THE VAMPIRE TROPE
Gyu Jeong (Choi Yoon Young) is a 29 year-old dreamer who works part-time at her mom’s side dish shop and still asks her parents for money. Her personal life isn’t any better as she is secretly seeing her best friend’s boyfriend. Despite her family and friends telling her to think practically, Gyu Jeong dreams of becoming a screenwriter but has failed numerous times to complete a script. She decides to start writing about a vampire as last ditch effort but quickly gets stuck on where to take the story. That is, until a mysterious man (Park Jung Shik) moves into her dad’s boarding house. She notices that he likes wearing black clothes and a face mask, doesn’t like sunlight or garlic and has long, pointy canine teeth. Could he actually be a vampire?
As one of the entries at the 2014 Jeonju Film Festival, I was surprised to find that this movie made the list after watching it. It feels like a B-movie but there are a number of well-established actors and actresses who appear in it which peaked my interest. There’s an overall quirkiness to the movie’s tone and even in the acting but underneath it all, the movie is a character study about love and relationships.
The movie explores the human condition, specifically in the context of love. What is it? Can it be researched and quantified? Nam Gul aka the vampire takes on that research. Introduced to the world of the movie as an extremely intelligent but socially awkward, university researcher, he doesn’t socialize with anyone other than Gyu Jeong. She tries to enlighten him on the concept of love and attraction but relays it through her emotional ties. He approaches the subject matter analytically.
The movie focuses on the different aspects of love throughout the movie. Gyu Jeong’s mom (Moon Hee Kyeong) is having a secret relationship with someone while her dad (Kim Jong Gu) quietly pines for her.
Gyu Jeong can relate to both her mom and her dad as she’s also have a secret relationship with her best friend’s boyfriend but wishing that they could go public with their relationship. I don’t think any of these parties really understand love even though they’re having these affairs.
As for Nam Gul, he takes a cold stance on love which extends from his relationship with his own mother (Jang Young Nam), as she’s quite brutal and practical. Freud might have a field day with this one but it clear where Nam Gul’s reluctance to socialize with others extends from. However, his curiosity is peaked when he meets Gyu Jeong and she brings a sense of warm that he’s never experienced before.
Park Jung Shik is a newcomer and his performance as the lead does leave a lot to be desired. There’s finesse when it comes to quirky comedy; go over that line and it’s just plain weird and unappealing. His inexperience as an actor speaks to how Nam Gul’s high-pitched voice and the amateurish delivery of the dialogue can miss the mark at times, such as the scene when Nam Gul is overcome by his unexplainable emotions for Gyu Jeong. Rather than swooning, it was an uncomfortable scene to watch.
As opposed to other scenes when he hits the right stride with timing and delivery such as the movie’s final scene. Perhaps if he gets to do other roles it he future, we’ll get to see some improvement but I am not sold by the performance here.
Despite the acting, the on-screen chemistry between Choi Yoon Young and Park Jung Shik is oddly amusing. The plot does follow the traditional romantic comedy arc, though overplayed, it does the job for what this movie is trying to achieve but I can’t help this nagging feeling of dissatisfaction by the movie’s end.
The main leads don’t get as much heart-to-heart moments throughout the movie so even when we’re given the admission of feelings and the vampire confession, it left me wanting more. I kept watching that last scene hoping that maybe there was something I missed but was only left with the credits.