Sunday, May 15, 2011

그리고 아무도 없었다

Four little Soldier boys going out to sea
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

No, no, no, I'm not going to discuss South-Korean detective fiction from now on. The biggest hurdle being that I can't actually read Korean, despite having followed Korean language courses for 1.5 semester. I still want to visit the Detective Literature Museum in Busan someday, which still seems so much fun despite probably most books being in Korean, so maybe I should try a bit more. Or open my own museum here. Hmmm....

For some reason, a lot of Korean movies seem to have an international title, so I'll just refer to Geukrakdo Salinsageon ("Paradise Island Murder Case") as Paradise Murdered. A friend had given me this 2007 movie, saying it was something like a detective movie. A quick search on the internet told me it was a reasonably popular movie with an And Then There Were None plot that was reviewed mostly positively, so it seemed interesting enough at least. To watch it almost a year after I got it. Yes, I'm horrible.

The movie is set in 1986 and starts with the discovery of a decapitated head by some fishers on the mainland of South-Korea. It seems the head came from the nearby island Geukrakdo, where all 17 inhabitants have disappeared. As the authorities come to the island to investigate this mass disappearence, a flashback starts and tells the events of some days before. While seemingly an island true to its name of Geukrakdo ("Paradise Island"), with all 17 inhabitants living a simple yet good life there, the island soon turns into a living hell when one day two technicians working on the island are murdered brutally at a gambling party. With the local lunatic, who seems the most plausible suspect, missing and the island's only radio being destroyed, things become quite stressful on this paradise. Add a local legend of a ghost and a big pile of money that seems to disappear and appear at the worst moments possible and you can be sure that more and more people get murdered, until there were none left.

I'm not all too sure what to say about the movie. At one hand, the denouement and the main plot-twist was done reasonably well, being fairly hinted and actually the one I was expecting. And the other hand, the main plot-twist can be a bit unfair if you expect a true Golden Age detective, because Paradise Murdered isn't that. It's nowhere as neatly plotted as And Then There Were None, mostly hanging together by coincidences. Most events can be taken at face-value, because there really is nothing hidden behind smoke and mirrors. Rather than Christie's masterpiece, Paradise Murdered might be compared more reasonably to Edogawa Rampo's more pulpy works. With a healthy dose of violence, a bit of misdirection, the final plot twist that reminds very much of Edogawa's pulpy themes and a strange blend of humor and the occult mixed in the story, I think Paradise Murdered can be quite fun if you're into 1920's Japanese henkaku themes actually.

A masterpiece, this is not. It's not awful either and it probably appeals to the masses because of the slash horror theme combined with an And Then There Were None setting and an actual denouement scene, but on the other hand, you don't really miss out on anything by not watching this. 

Original Korean title(s): 극락도 살인사건


  1. So this is basically a 1980s-like slasher movie, with more-than-usual interest and attention to plotting (i.e. not just running around half naked girls with a knife or machete).

    Maybe I should try and track down some Asian mystery movies to review (if I can find subs), because I don't think I have anything new to say about The Maltese Falcon, Green for Danger and The Murder on the Orient Express.

  2. I'm not too familiar with Asian mystery films myself actually. I know many Japanese TV dramas and I'm pretty sure that South-Korea has a lot of these mystery dramas, but I'm not sure about movies.

    The 1976 Inugamike no Ichizoku/The Inugami Family is a masterpiece though. More recent is Yougisha X no Kenshin/The Devotion of Suspect X, featuring great acting by Tsutsumi Shinichi and losing most of the cheesiness of the TV series. And you can also pick a couple of Conan movies, I guess.

    And a friend sent me a link to a 2011 Korean movie earlier; I don't know what the Korean pronuncation is, but in Japanese, the title reads Chousen Meitantei/Chousen Great Detective, which seems a bit like an action packed detective movie a la Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes.

  3. Well, I guess I could always re-watch DC movies, and some of them are definitely worth revisiting... or I could finally get around to watching Full Score of Fear, The Raven Chaser and The Lost Ship in the Sky. Yeah, Jolly Roger in the Blue Azure was very off-putting. ^_~;

    The trailer of Chousen Great Detective comes across as that Detective-Dee-Downey-Jr-Sherlock-Holmes movie, but without taking itself too seriously.

    Aw, Detective Dee! Now there's a movie I should try to find a subbed version of to watch. It's a perfect follow up to my little critique of The Haunted Monastery Murders. Have you seen it yet? It would be interesting to get your take on the movie.

  4. You owe it to yourself to watch The Raven Chaser, it's awesome. I'm really happy I got to see it in the theater! The Lost Ship in the Sky is not great, but it has some cool KID scenes. Well, and I love Garnet Crow's music. And I had great company. Yes, I'm grasping for praise for the movie here now.

    Haven't seen any Judge Dee movies yet, don't know when I come around to it. I'm usually horrible with watching TV-series and movies. I've been sitting on Yokomizo Seishi's Kindaichi Kousuke TV series for almost a year now and still haven't finished a single serial!

  5. I wisely skipped the Jolly Roger one. =)
    I wasn't too impressed by Full Score of Fear either. Maybe because I figured out the 'right' after the crime was committed. It helps that I am somewhat familiar with music lingo and related stuff.