The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
 
 
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

The Isle (2000)
Director: Kim Ki-Duk

review by Paul Higson

"Give me a pack of four-inch love-tailed worms."

You will cringe. You will squirm. Romance isn't dead, it's just deadly. The Isle took its time coming to DVD and it does not arrive intact, as removed are some unnecessary moments of unpleasantness with god's little creatures. The animal abuse that remains wouldn't pass any humane society's coda, neither. The pretty lead girl tearing a worm in half with her teeth, ripping the skin from a frog or giving her dog a bitch slap are still unsettling in varying degree. The dog looks particularly mystified as to why it is being forced into a boat, stranded on a floating platform, the mutt simply does not want to be on set and who can blame it.

A silent, beautiful young woman Hee-jin (Suh Jung) maintains a fishing lake and its users in more ways than one. Out on the water are a number of floating platforms each with a different coloured fishing hut on it. Anglers come but fishing is the least of their interests. Fugitives from justice, businessmen with prostitutes to order, the same 'coffee flask and fuck' maids back on their day off, these are the usual clientele. The mentally fused young harbour mistress turns the occasional trick herself, is subject to abuse and like some evil siren takes to the water to exact cold stabs of revenge.

One of the floating residents is an equally disturbed young man, Hyun Shik (Kim Yoo-suk) with a dead woman in his past and the police with his face on a poster. She takes a peculiar shine to him, but not his aggressive take on sex. She tricks a dainty prostitute into spending time and then unwanted overtime with him, but the prostitute takes cutely to him also in what to her, in her miserable world, comes across as gentlemanliness. A bit of a backfire for the young harbour mistress then, so the malicious mermaid boats her petite rival out to the wrong float, takes her hostage, and removes the platform to a distant part of the lake. The young prostitute's accidental death occurs and the pimp follows her to the lake and his early sunken grave also. As the police boat in and capture one fugitive, the tortured antihero attempts suicide by swallowing a handful of fishhooks and then yanking till your reviewer tears a whole in the settee. The girl rescues him but the gruesome dance is far from over.

The Isle is a tidy little shocker. It has a rhythm. There are no wasted scenes. The cinematography of Hwang Seo-shik is sumptuous, the lake resplendent in its downbeat beauty. The Isle is a beautiful horror film, deliciously nasty, a sadomasochistic 'true love' story. The in film community is no different from others, and in a low-budget American horror they might have been found in a trailer park, but the minimalist setting here of a floating platform lake refuge is unique and renders the occupants fresh when familiar. Suh Jung is scary and fabulous, her glare and casual malevolence, her unimpeachable cruelty, will provide a quandary for those bewitched by her irrefutable attractiveness; she is a situation a man might walk into despite all the warnings and evidence contrary to the safeness in such a decision.

The film is replete with wonderful images and several novel devices. When Hyun-shik is attacked on his float by the pimp he is taking a beating and they disappear around the back of the hut. When they reappear to the other side it is the pimp who is in trouble. A number of shots are taken from below the rippling water surface of action above, and you will be grateful of it in the scene when one of the fishermen is defecating, as I don't think they were employing a stunt dirtian for the take. The final image is fascinating and fantastic but a too bafflingly surreal way to close what has been so measured a film. It could have finished an image before it did.
The Isle

Please support this
website - buy stuff
using these links:
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Send it
W.H. Smith

home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2005 Pigasus Press