South Korean film “Fatal Intuition” is a thriller mixed with some supernatural elements as a part of its creepy atmosphere. For finding a cruel killer on the loose, our dogged hero works with a girl who often experiences disturbing premonitions of things to happen sooner or later, and she is the only one who can possibly help him now. This premise may sound preposterous to some of you, but the movie believes in its unlikely premise, and it provides enough tension and atmosphere to make us involved in their urgent matter – especially when they finally come to face their guy in question.
For Jang-woo (Joo Won), his teenager sister Eun-ji (Ryoo Hye-yeong) has been the sole bright light of his hard daily life in their rural beach town. Since their parents died when she was very young, he has been devoted to her well-being during many years of hard work, and he really wants to see her getting out of their hometown for her future – even if that means he will be stuck with his shabby laundry shop for the rest of his life.
Unfortunately, a terrible incident happens to Eun-ji. After they argue with each other over a matter involved with her future during one evening, Jang-woo goes out after leaving his sister alone in their house, and then someone breaks into the house during his absence. Eun-ji is brutally beaten and then killed by this mysterious intruder, and Jang-woo is devastated to discover his sister’s body later, which turns out to be hidden at an unexpected spot during one shocking moment.
While frustrated with lazy, ineffectual local cops who keep making wrong judgments on the case, Jang-woo witnesses a strange thing along with other town people when they attend a shaman ritual for his dead sister on the beach. In the middle of the ritual, the shaman begins to be unusually disturbed by something, and she is not the only one who can feel that unnatural aura at the ritual. Si-eun (Lee Yoo-wong), a pariah girl who has been ostracized by many others due to her uncanny ability to foresee bad things to happen in the future, sees the ghost of some little girl, and she soon becomes as agitated as the shaman. She met Eun-ji not long before her death, and she has been feeling guilty because she did not warn her only friend enough in advance, though there was probably nothing she could do to prevent what was bound to happen.
Meanwhile, Jang-woo happens to notice a man watching the ritual from the distance, as a certain object used during the ritual is carried by waves toward that guy in question. It can be a mere coincidence, but it is pretty apparent to Jang-woo and us that the man is very suspicious because 1) his identity is hidden by his attire and 2) he immediately runs away when Jang-woo starts to go after him.
After failing to catch this possible suspect, Jang-woo tells the detectives about what he saw, but, not so surprisingly, they do not believe him at all, and he eventually seeks the help from Si-eun, who reluctantly joins his private investigation. While she can inform him of whether anything bad will happen on their way, there are also a few other things which can help uncovering the identity of Eun-ji’s murderer, and one of them is Eun-ji’s cellular phone, which seems to be in the possession of the murderer at present.
It will not be much of a spoiler to tell you who the killer is because 1) the advertisements of the movie have already exposed its ‘secret’ and 2) you can easily guess the answer for yourself even before the murder, especially if you think about the Law of the Economy of Characters defined by Roger Ebert’s Glossary of movie terms. Even if you do not recognize a certain well-known South Korean actor right from his first appearance in the film, you can clearly see that his seemingly extraneous character will be crucial in the story in one way or another. Besides, there are not many plausible suspects in the story besides that guy.
While it lacks surprise in its mystery, the movie is not deficient in terms of thriller. Two chase sequences in the film are handled well with each own mood and tempo, and I especially like the moment when Jang-woo intuits the identity of the murderer through an ominous visual cue suddenly appearing in the background. The movie also makes a good use of its real shabby locations; while the day scenes in the film are filled with the glum sense of hard reality surrounding its mundane characters, the night scenes in the film are creepy and foreboding in their moody atmosphere. We wince when one character is unwittingly approaching to a certain danger or when one cellular phone rings at a wrong moment, and the movie goes further with its melodramatic climax part, which is unfolded at a spooky abandoned place full of bad vibes.
The cast in the film give fine performances on the whole. Joo Won, who has been mostly known for his works in South Korean TV dramas, may look a little too clean for his role, but he looks adequate as a grieving young man driven by his urge to get the justice for his murdered sister. Lee Yoo-young is sympathetic as a girl haunted by the ability she cannot understand well, and Ryoo Hye-yeong leaves a lasting impression hovering around the film even though she makes an early exit. In case of the other main cast member I did not mention, let’s say he is effective in his against-the-type role, and he is especially good when his character sadistically toys with his opponent at one point.
“Fatal Intuition” is the debut feature film of the director/co-writer Yoon Joon-hyeong, who previously directed short horror film “Mokdugi” (2003). I have not watched that short film, but “Fatal Intuition” shows that he is skillful enough to continue his filmmaking career. It could be polished a bit more in several aspects, but this is still a solid debut work, and I think we can expect more good things from him.