Two Moons (2012) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4) : A haunted house with two moons in the sky

Two impressive things in new South Korean horror film “Two Moons” are the title itself and the image represented by the title. It is a very dark and creepy night in the forest in some remote area, and we have a haunted house where some ominous force seems to be working against the people in the house. And then we see the two moons in the sky, which are identical in shape but look a little different in color. Something is very wrong, isn’t it?

The movie is your average haunted house film peppered with dark places where something may be lurking inside to terrify you. The characters keep saying that they are afraid, but, of course, they are bound to look around the house, and they see many disturbing things inside and outside of the house. They hope the night will be over as soon as possible, but the night seems to last far longer than they wish.

You may quickly guess what the hell is going on in the house and the surrounding area not long after when you meet three main characters at the start. Three people suddenly find themselves in the dark basement storage room of the house, and, while they surely remember who they respective are, none of them has any memory about how they came or were brought to the house. The basement room is fortunately not locked, but they are virtually isolated in the house. They try to get out of the forest surrounding the house, but they fail, so they eventually go back to the house and decide to stay in the house until the dawn comes.

However, the house does not look like a safe place to them. They frequently hear some strange sounds in the house. They see something moving in dark corners. They feel the malevolent presence of someone else besides them. Furthermore, it is possible that one of them is not what he or she seems to be – naturally, they become more suspicious of each other than before. Why is So-hee(Park Han-byeol), a young novelist, so particularly interested in who her fellows are and when they were born? Why is the hand of In-jeong(Park Jin-Joo), a whiny high school girl, smeared with blood when she wakes up with others in the basement room? And can what Seok-ho(Kim Ji-seok) remembers about himself really be trusted?

If you are familiar with many horror films about haunted house, you will probably ask the same questions, and then you will possibly also get the right answers for yourself within minutes. The movie never escapes our expectation, so we are not so shocked to know that there are indeed secrets in the house, represented by the other characters in the house played by Ra Mi-ran and Park Won-Sang. As a matter of fact, the movie even makes references to one or two well-known horror movies, so we can see what kind of surprise is coming to us. Well, if you are stuck with two moons in the sky in an unrealistic place where a dead body can be suddenly disappeared or a murderous character cannot be killed easily, you know for sure that you are in a very serious trouble, don’t you?

But the characters in the film are not smart enough to know what’s going on in the house even after the second half of the story begins, and, this is worse, they are cardboards characters we do care about much. They usually shout or whine just because, well, they are pressured as the tools of the plot. I am not familiar with the three main performers in the film, but I could see that the weak characterization is not their fault. They try their best, but their diligent performances are frequently inhibited by the flat dialogues of the weak screenplay, and I cared increasingly less about what would eventually happen to them while appreciating several nice scenes in the movie.

There are indeed some good scary moments in the film. As I said above, I like that impressive scene revealing two moons hovering over the house in the dark of the night, and the movie does a nice moment which reminded me of that famous deleted scene of “The Exorcist”(1973). This is a low budget film, but the spooky atmosphere surrounding the house is well maintained throughout its short running time(86min) even when the characters are in a bright space. When they are moving around the house while only depending on a lantern or a cellular phone, you know something can suddenly appear out of the darkness at any moment.

The director Kim Dong-bin has been infamous among South Korean moviegoers for “Red Eye”(2004), which was, according to my acquaintances, one of the worst South Korean horror films in the last decade. I think “Two Moons” is not a bad horror film, but I also feel that it could be a better movie if he and the other people behind the movie were more creative and imaginative in handling their nice idea. Besides the problems in the story, I also found that two or three scenes in the film could be more effectively terrifying if they were handled more competently. For example, when the movie shows the two characters groping in the darkness, it switches to an infrared camera to show them clearly to our eyes, but it feels jarring rather than scary.

Although the potential in its premise is limited by its low budget, “Two Moons” can be enjoyed as a small horror film if you are aware of its regrettable limits, but I cannot recommend it because of its apparent flaws. It is effective at times, but it is also marred by its weaknesses in handling the story and the characters. Serving us with scary moments is not enough to make a good horror film – it always depends on good story and good characters we can identify with. But maybe I will fondly remember when these two moons hit my eyes like a couple of big pizza pies.

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