A blind woman is in danger. A psychotic killer wants to kill her. She finds herself being nearly alone with him in the house at dark, rainy night. She must do something to increase her chance of survival while being careful, or she will be killed by him within minutes. So, she must depend on her remaining senses more than ever for saving herself. As the first step, she cuts the electricity to get the lights turned off.
It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? “Blind”, a South Korean thriller movie released in South Korean theaters in this weekend, is apparently inspired by that famous shocker movie “Wait Until Dark”(1967), whose climax in the darkness is still one of the most scariest moments in the history of thriller movies. It is not wholly original in case of its climax sequence, but “Blind” has its own thrilling moments along with a good mystery plot and, above all, vulnerable but resourceful heroine who has to deal with her handicap while also depending herself from the murderous menace approaching to her.
Our young heroine Soo-ah(Kim Ha-neul) lost her sense of sight after the tragic accident in the opening sequence. She was a police academy student, and, several years later, she is trying to go back to her school for completing her education process, but she is blocked by the prejudices against the disabled prevalent in South Korean society. It is really hard for the people like Soo-ah to do the simple thing like crossing the street, and, for me, it is bitter to see her plight in one painful scene and admit that South Korean society is no country for the weak.
At one night, after visiting the orphanage outside Seoul her mother manages, she waits at the bus station for the taxi she calls for. After waiting for a while, she is alone, and a car comes to her. She gets in the car, but there is something strange about the car and its driver, who offers to her a bottle of coffee kindly and then suspiciously. Furthermore, she smells disinfectant or something else in the seat.
Thanks to TV news briefly seen in an earlier scene(A lesson: in thriller movies, the bad news on media is usually the prelude for something bad which is about to happen), we can easily guess who the driver is. He is a serial kidnapper/killer the police are looking for, and now he preys on Soo-ah. However, occupied on trying to make Soo-ah drink the coffee, he accidentally hits a woman crossing the road. He tries to fool Soo-ah by saying he hit an animal, but she cannot be fooled due to what she hears and feels. Eventually, Soo-ah is left behind on the road while being unconscious, and the killer rides away with his new victim in the trunk.
Because she is only witness to ‘see’ what happened at that night, the detective Cho(Cho Hee-bong) was at a loss about how to deal with Soo-ah at first. However, he begins to be marveled by her for not only giving almost every detail about the incident and its surrounding situation except visual information but also for intelligently gathering the clues from her memory. The story becomes more interesting when another witness, a young delivery boy, testifies that the car was not a taxi but an imported car. Soo-ah firmly believes it was a taxi and he was lying for the reward. We cannot easily trust him either, but it turns out the killer also preys on him as well as her. It seems he really saw something important even if he really lies.
Though it reveals the killer’s identity quite early in the story, the movie does a good job as a tight thriller. In one thrilling sequence, Soo-ah has to depend on the help from the other character through her cell phone which can do as much as your average cell phone. The movie slowly builds the tension and then explodes with desperate urgency. After clearly realizing her peril, Soo-ah must run for her life with her beloved guide dog from the killer’s scalpel alone in the bright corridors of subway station. Because of her disadvantage, she really has to be both careful and quick, and the movie generates considerable suspense from her desperate situation, especially when she happens to lose the direction while the killer is running toward her.
It helps that the movie has a plucky heroine we can identify with and care about. Kim Ha-neul does a nice job as the woman whose everyday is struggle and adjustment. Visually showing us how she “sees” the world surrounding her based on her remaining senses is one of its nice touches; we can feel more empathy toward her rather than pity. And she is a clever girl. Though she is not always correct with the clues given to her, Soo-ah has the right stuff as a good detective, and that is what Detective Cho admires and respects. Even when facing the fatal situation, she does not lose her sense; she knows what she has to do first and she does exactly what should be done in most cases.
The supporting actors surrounding Kim Ha-neul are less than perfect, but let’s say they are as good as they can. The best supporting performance in the film comes from Soo-ah’s guide dog, which holds its place among the human actors. I know that it is not from acting but from training, but I found myself deeply caring about her loyal, dutiful companion. Yoo Seung-ho, whom I jockingly called South Korean version of Robert Pattinson, gives a strained performance as a cocky rebellious lad, but the mellow chemistry between his character and Soo-ah, who sees her lost younger brother in him, is not bad to watch. As a comic relief, Jo Hee-bong is likable as the clumsy detective who happens to get the major case of lifetime, and Yang Yeong-jo is menacing as a twisted man who harbors his sadistic side in his basement. South Korean thrillers usually takes a cutthroat approach to depict the violence on the screen, but “Blind” chooses a rather restrained way, and you will probably get more comfortable watching experience than “Oldboy” or “The Chaser”.
I have to point out that there are some contrivances and flaws in the story. I do not think it is a wise move to bring the prime witnesses to the remote place with only one detective on surveillance, who reminds me that there must be some special department for such detectives in thriller movies, who are usually expendable in the thrillers about mad killer. The movie is frequently on the verge of being a little too melodramatic sometimes even at the most urgent moment, and, as usual, the killer seems invincible no matter how much he was injured, along with that famous “jack-in-the-box” cliché.
However, the characters in “Blind” usually follow the common sense and their sufficient intelligence, and that is the main reason why the movie works as a good thriller. After enjoying its gripping moments on last Wednesday night, I and the audiences walked out of the screening room after the credit rolled, and then, suddenly, the lights were turned off and we were surrounded by the darkness except few lights. It was not so surprising for we knew it was the last screening of that day, but I have to say, for us, it was quite a memorable way to end the day with this movie.