So I was combing through Netflix for a horror to watch, and I felt a little more inclined to the supernatural side of horror, and I do enjoy foreign horrors because they tend to be more original and grittier than English films. I found this South Korean film and was a little put off by the title, the poster on Netflix, and the fact that it took place in a boarding school. This all seemed to add up to cliche horror flick, reinforced by the line in the description “She noticed that strange things are happening to her schoolmates”. When “strange things” are happening, that’s usually my cue to tune out. But, it was set in the 1930’s, which is a cool time for a horror to be set, and the reviews were okay, so I thought I’d give it a go.
First of all, as it was in the horror genre, under the sub-genre of supernatural, I was rather expecting a supernatural horror. Somehow, though, it managed to be only slightly those things. It was more of a thriller than a horror, and honestly, it ended up being more sci-fi than supernatural. The Silenced is also in the thriller category, so I can’t be too mad about that, but it really shouldn’t be in horror too, and I get why it’s under supernatural but it’s not the most accurate description. Wikipedia describes it as a mystery thriller, which is a far more accurate description.
Okay just bear in mind that I’m not sure I completely understood the story, and my South Korean history is a little sketchy, so I’m kind of just putting things together how they came across to me. I’m pretty sure I missed things, misinterpreted things, there are lots of cultural and historical explanations that were lost on me, and I was reading subtitles and missed a lot of other stuff going on in the scene, and honestly, There were many names that are unfamiliar to me so knowing who was who at all times was a bit iffy. Generally what I’m saying is, I know I missed stuff, I’ve probably misunderstood the whole film, but I’m gonna write about it anyway. And I’ll be using Wikipedia for contextual information.
Written and directed by Lee Hae-young, The Silenced follows the story of Ju-ran, also known as Shizuku, who is placed into a boarding school for sick young girls in Gyeongseong, 1938 during the Japanese occupation of Korea, where they can be treated and returned to society physically fit. The Headmistress prescribes a new treatment after seeing her condition, and though many of the girls are not fond of her, she finds a friend in one of the other girls, Yeon-deok (Kazue), and her health begins to improve. It’s actually really sweet for a while, seeing these girls bonding and having fun and seeing Ju-ran coming out of her shell and be happy.
And then shit gets fucked when Ju-ran starts to notice some of her classmates disappearing under suspicious circumstances and she starts seeing things that don’t quite fit the story they are being told, which is where I’ll drop the commentary so that I don’t spoil anything.
The film started off more like a drama, I really forgot that it was supposed to be a horror/thriller, and I was quite enjoying it despite it not being what I was looking for. Then everything went full horror for a bit, and this was actually where I lost the most interest because I thought it was just going to be the same thing that I’ve seen 100 times over, which ironically is most like what I was originally looking for. And then there was a really confusing backstory bit where I felt like turning it off because I was just lost, but after pushing through to the end of the flashbacks I actually found that it made sense when everything was said and done. And then we discovered the actual plotline and what was going on, and that’s when it got really good and very interesting, and everything actually made a lot of sense.
It does mean that, unfortunately, this is a film where you have to just push through some of the tougher bits, and you do actually have to pay attention, but it is worth it.
It’s not groundbreaking, it’s not completely unheard of, it’s not the most incredible film you’ll ever see, but it is a film that will be worth your time, and it’s amazing for a film to be worth the time that you spend on it. Give it a go.