Fantasia 2017 Review – ‘House of the Disappeared’

   Fantasia International Film Festival

House of the Disappeared
South Korea, 100 min
Dir. Lim Dae-Woong

After 25 years in prison, Mi-Hee (Yunjin Kim) is released to serve out the rest of her sentence in her own home, where decades earlier her husband was killed and her son disappeared. She was convicted of killing them both. Though she can’t explain the events of the night that irrevocably altered her life, she maintains her innocence and still seeks to find out what happened to her son. With the help of Priest Choi (Taecyeon), the centuries-old mysteries of the house start to come to light.

House of the Disappeared is director Lim Dae-Woong‘s remake of the 2013 Venezuelan film The House at the End of Time. Unfamiliar with the original gives me the opportunity to judge Lim’s film on its own merits, free of comparison. Simply put, the film is riveting. In addition to being one of the best haunted house films to come along in years, it is a beautifully crafted and tragic family drama. The finely mixed combination of fear and sorrow will haunt you in more ways than usual. Yunjin Kim puts so much into her performance. We feel every bit of her emotions. If you thought her role as Sun in LOST got you choked up, just wait. Jae-yoon Jo also turns in an impressive performance as Mi-Hee’s mean drunk of a husband Chul-joong. His character is a bastard for sure, but Jae-yoon successfully makes him sympathetic when necessary before bringing the character’s sinister side out with fiery effect.

It’s difficult to delve further into the plot without involving spoilers, which I feel might take away from the potency of a first viewing. The house’s history is explored through the eyes of the kind Priest Choi, a man of faith with his own motivation for unraveling what happened to Mi-Hee and her family. His investigation is layered on top of Mi-Hee’s own inquiry into the first supernatural occurrence in the house prior to the night that led to her incarceration. The twists and scares are clever and enhance the emotional narrative without ever feeling cheap. To the film’s credit, the phenomena at it’s core isn’t explained even though the mysteries surrounding Mi-Hee’s circumstances brought to a strong and fulfilling closure. It’s always refreshing to not have everything spelled out, particularly when dealing with the haunted house genre. It has me eager to make return visits to the House of the Disappeared for repeated viewings.