Arang DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Tartan Video
Directed by Sang-hoon Ahn
Written by Sang-hoon Ahn, Seon-ju Jeong, Jeong-seob Lee and Yun-kyung Sin
2006, Region 1, 98 minutes, Not Rated
Yoon-ah Song as So-young
Dong-wook Lee as Hyun-ki
Immediately after coming off a suspension, Detective So-yung (Yoon-ah Song — Face) is thrust into one doozy of a case. Seems the victim died from acid. An acid released from inside his body. And this isn't the type of acid those crazy kids are fond of — the only trip these cats are taking is to the morgue.
To make matters worse, there are a couple more men dying off the same way. There appears to be a serial killer on the loose, and the last thing the victims are seeing is a long-haired woman in black (with some freaky blood-shot eyes).
Throw in a new partner and some crazy dreams and So-young has her work cut out for her.
Did you have that thought when you read the summary? The one that said, "Oh, no. Not another long-haired girl ghost"? It's understandable if you did. I'm with you, because the long-haired girl seems to be losing her power over me. Let's face it, though, she is a traditional part of Asian culture, and if the film is done right, it will still be good. Like Arang. Sort of.
The haunting aspect hurts Arang a tad, because in some movies, suspense is better than fear, and this is one of those movies. Yet, fortunately, the ghost wasn't overused, and there are some great, effective scenes with the haunt. In a way, it's a Catch-22. The ghost scenes work, while not being necessary. Because they work, they help the movie. Because they aren't necessary, they hurt it
At its core, Arang is a murder mystery more than a ghost story because, while the ghost does play a part in the movie (and effectively brings some scares), at the end of the day, it really isn't needed. The movie really works more as a mystery than a ghost story, and by the time the credits roll, you kind of wonder why the ghost was there in the first place.
The thing that impressed me the most is Yoon-ah Song's performance as So-yung, the detective. She manages to be tough without being butch. Many times in movies, if the female lead is a detective, there seems to be an unwritten rule where she has to be over-the-top badass, or have some sort of chip on her shoulder. But Song's So-yung is badass and sweet as pie. Even when she's beating down a suspect — the reason for her suspension — she never crosses the line of becoming Cagney or Lacey. And the best part is, she has a reason to have a chip on her shoulder (which plays into the movie, in a roundabout way), but it's handled extremely well in both her performance and the script. She really is fantastic.
According to IMDB, aside from a short, Arang is director Sang-hoon Ahn's first movie, and I am eager to see more from him. It's obvious he knows how to work fear, suspense and drama into a flick, so no matter what he chooses to tackle, I'm sure it will be great, especially if he focuses a little more on just one genre.
While Arang might have a little bit of an identity crisis, it still manages to be a pretty damn good flick, easily worth a rental, and a purchase for fans of Korean horror.
Video and Audio:
Arang's anamorphic presentation is very, very nice. The color spectrum is all over the place, from bright, vivid days to the cold bluish ghost to warm orangish scenes. The picture is crisp throughout, and colors always seem natural.
Like the picture, the Korean DTS track rocks, too. It's full and robust, with each speaker doing its job appropriately.
Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 and English and Spanish subtitles are also offered.
- Commentary by Director and Cast
- The Making of Arang
- Behind the Scenes
- Interview With Cast
- Interview With Music Director
- Deleted Scenes
- Original Theatrical Trailer
As you can see, Tartan Films really packed on the features for this "Asia Extreme" release.
The commentary with producer Min-ho Lee, director Ahn and actors Song and Dong-wook Lee is extremely well done. When they introduced themselves at the beginning of the track, I immediately became concerned. Three men and one woman on a subtitled commentary track. This wasn't going to be fun. But, fortunately, no one talked over one another, and it was very easy to keep up with. The talk is a mix of some funny anecdotes, the typical "he did great here," a little of telling the viewer what's going on onscreen and why some scenes were cut. Overall, it's a decent commentary — one I'm sure I would have enjoyed more if it weren't for the language barrier.
One thing I wish companies would do with foreign language tracks is differentiate the speakers — be it with different colored text on who's speaking, or printing of the name on the screen as they are speaking. It would be extremely helpful.
Both "The Making of Arang" and "Behind the Scenes" featurettes are about a half an hour each of behind-the-scenes material. While there are some fairly quick interviews mixed in, the majority of the featurettes are the filming of the filming of the movie. I enjoy these types of features, but I was wishing for some sort of commentary at points.
The "Interview With Cast" featurette is exactly that — interviews with the cast. It's rather short, compared to the other featurettes, as it only runs about three minutes.
Of the special features, the "Interview With Music Director" is my favorite. Dong-in Jung only talks for about five minutes of this 14-minute featurette, but what he says is pretty interesting (especially when he talks about a music choice he made that the director didn't agree with). The rest of the time is shots from the movie using his score. Seeing that the score is pretty damn awesome, it's a nice watch, and listen. It made me wish for a score-only track on the disc.
The ten deleted scenes consist of both extended scenes and scenes cut altogether, and, after listening to the commentary, I know (and agree with) why some were cut. But I still have to wonder why they cut a scene explaining the lack of teeth in a dead dog.