They shout or run a lot in South Korean thriller movie “Deranged”, just because they need to save the people they care about from the deadly parasite which controls human brain for its reproduction. As far as I remember, they don’t do anything besides these simple-minded behaviors to solve their emergent trouble, and I wonder whether there would be any difference in the story if their brains were infected with that lethal parasite.
You have probably heard about the parasite in question. It is Spinochordodes tellinii, which is also called nematomorph hairworm in English and called ‘Yeon-gasi’ in Korean. Check YouTube site, and you will find lots of video clips showing how this long, thread-like parasite cleverly exploits its host insect. It lives inside its host for a while, and, when it is the time for laying its eggs, it somehow controls the neuron system of its host, which goes to river or pond to drown itself as controlled. When the host dies in water, the worm comes out of the host and lays its eggs ready for another lethal life cycle.
“Deranged” actually begins from a nice idea for SF thriller movie. What if this worm infects human beings instead of its usual target hosts? What kind of chaos can be resulted if this parasite is spread on the national level? Then how will government and people react to this situation? With this idea, the movie could be as interesting as Steve Soderbergh’s recent film “Contagion”(2011), but, the movie unfortunately resorts to running and shouting coupled with the alarming idiocy of its main characters, and that is the reason why I was annoyed rather than engaged while watching it.
First, let’s talk about one notable stupid choice made in the movie. Suppose you get a very important chance for solving the national problem and revealing some secret behind it and you are one of very few people having that knowledge. Of course, you must immediately notify authorities of that information to save those unfortunate infected people as soon as possible, but do you know what the main characters of the movie do instead when they have such a chance? They don’t give that information to the police, and, to confirm that information, they just go alone with someone who can be their main witness to a certain remote place without telling anyone except one character. As a consequence, they further screw not only their situation but also other people’s situation thanks to their idiotic recklessness. I know the people in thriller movies can commit stupid things while they are busy and hurried, but, boy, this is too stupid to be overlooked.
Maybe you can argue that Jae-hyeok(Kim Myeong-min) is so desperate to save their family that he cannot afford to use his uninfected brain. Before the outbreak, he is already leading a hard life to support his dear family. He was once a college professor with bright future in front of him, but he recently lost lots of money due to an unwise stock investment recommended by his cop brother Jae-pil(Kim Dong-wan), so now he is busily working as a petty employee of some pharmaceutical company while not giving much attention to his wife Gyeong-soon(Moon Jeong-hee) and children.
Meanwhile, strange dead bodies are kept being found in rivers. It becomes quickly clear to Jae-pil and other cops that some disease is being spread around South Korea. Jae-pil’s girlfriend(and Jae-hyeock’s junior) Yeon-joo(Lee Honey) and other experts soon discover that the hairworm variant is causing this outbreak, so the infected people are quickly quarantined by South Korean government, but the number of the infected keeps increasing in spite of their efforts. The infected suddenly show increased appetite, and then they repeatedly drink lots of water, and then they desperately look for water to drown themselves like zombies reach for fresh human flesh. How the worms come out of human bodies is certainly not a pretty sight to watch.
Yeon-joo and others try to find a way to kill the worm, but nearly all of medicines for killing parasites do not work on infected people because they die due to side effects. Finally, one certain medicine product is found to be both safe and effective as the cure for the infected, but it turns out that there is a big problem associated with its availability, and that is why Jae-heyok runs a lot for saving his family throughout the story.
While its running time is less than two hours, lots of things rapidly happen in the movie, so it is not boring at least, but it is really annoying to see the movie pushing its characters to the series of stupid behaviors including the one I mentioned above for injecting more suspension and desperation in the story. It is revealed later that there may be some group responsible for this wide outbreak, but this mystery part, which could have been a lot more intriguing, is too easily resolved, and the movie gives no chance to Jae-heyok to use his expert knowledge at all except one moment before the finale. As you know, that is usually the point where the heroes in lesser thriller movies suddenly become a lot smarter than before after doing so many dumb things, and “Deranged” is another classic example.
The actors do whatever they can do with their characters, although their characters are mostly two-dimensional ones mainly designed for raising voice in their so-called dramatic tearful moments. I know well that Kim Myeong-min is a good, talented actor, but I am afraid he is letting himself caged in the stereotype roles frequently given to him nowadays. He surely looks as tense, hurried, and pressured as Nicolas Cage, but I have seen the same things from him too often before. While Moon Jeong-hee does not have many things to do except looking terrified or desperate or deranged along with her child co-actors, Kim Dong-wan and Lee Honey are stuck in the unconvincing relationship between their respective characters. If your boyfriend asks you to give money for another stock investment even after ruining his brother’s family, I think it is wise to consider leaving him, but Yeon-joo stays with Jae-pil, so she dramatically helps him and his brother in one perilous moment in a burning storage room.
“Deranged” has indeed some good moments including a group of infected people breaking out of the hospital building and running toward water, but it is ultimately hampered by the forced family melodrama and other serious flaws in the story, and I was not so terrified by it. With its nice idea coupled with the social criticism to its bad guys, it could have been a lot better, but, sadly, this movie is only shouting and running for water to infect us – without much success.