Nick’s Cinema Verdict: Hopeless/Tastes of Horror (Reviews)

Nick’s Cinema Verdict: Hopeless/Tastes of Horror (Reviews)

*Writer’s Note: Releasing this week on digital from Well Go USA are two South Korean titles, “Hopeless” and “Tastes of Horror.” This article consists of two reviews for each of these films.*


NR/Crime/Drama/Thriller 133 Mins

Writer/Director: Kim Chang-hoon

Starring: Hong Xa Bin, Kim Jong-soo and Song Joong-ki

Synopsis: A young boy from a broken home in a bad neighborhood hopes to one day leave it all behind for a better life. Thinking it’s a way out, he entangles himself into a local gang and as it gets more dangerous, he starts to wonder if he’ll find a way out alive.

Review: After premiering in the Un Certain Regard section at 2023 Cannes Film Festival, South Korean thriller “Hopeless” is now releasing to US audiences. It follows a young boy named Yeon-gyu who desperately wants to leave his neighborhood for a better life somewhere else. Dealing with an abusive stepfather and bullies, Yeon-gyu is finding it more and more difficult to gather the funds to run away with his just-as-scared mother. Due to certain circumstances, he finds himself joining a local gang. Each situation gets more dangerous and now he just hopes he can still leave, just not in a body bag.

Keeping the review short and simple, I found the filmmaking to be very well done. The gritty cinematography adds to the grim narrative that makes it feel grounded and real. It makes the violence more effective and the harsh themes resonate. This filmmaking technique connects the viewer to the lead and helps them understand why he wants to leave so badly. The performances, especially from Hong Xa-bin as Yeon-gyu, are really good. His quiet demeanor is elevated by his facial expressions, you see his pain and hurt through his eyes. My biggest complaint would be the narrative itself. It’s a story told in a well done fashion, it just felt like a narrative you’ve seen played out before. It felt a little by-the-numbers and generic. It also takes its time telling this story which can make the pace feel really slow and I will admit, I looked at the clock several times. I think someone else might get more from this film than I did, and it’s well made enough that I would still recommend it to someone looking for a gritty street thriller.

Score: 6/10

“Tastes of Horror”

NR/Horror/Anthology/118 Mins

Directors: Ahn Sang-hoon, Yoon Een-Kyoung, Kim Yong-gyun, Lim Dae-woong and Chae Yeo-jun

Starring: Chang Seung-yeon, Oh Seung-hee, Jang Ye-eun, Shin Eun-soo, Kim Ho-jung, Kim Tae-hun, Jo Jae-yun, Yoon Hyun-min, Jang Gwang, Son Jina, Lee Joo-young, Kim Joo-ryong, Choi Su-im, Park Jin-a

Synopsis: Six tales of horror from five acclaimed directors from South Korea.

Review: A film containing six shorts is a little difficult to review. Like most anthologies, not every segment can be on the same level of quality. Therefore, my score will reflect on how I recommend the film as a whole while touching on what segments I did or did not enjoy. “Tastes of Horror” consists of vastly different narratives that range from a TikTok-esque challenge that grants wishes gone wrong, an overachieving student turn serial killer, a man who wins a lot of money checking into a shady (and haunted) hotel, to a gym that kills after hours and a deadly “mukbang” competition.

Each of these shorts range from low to mid budget and the production values are evident. Like attending a  short film festival, there was no frame narrative bookending each segment, a la, the “V/H/S” anthology series. You’re thrown straight into each short with a quick title card with little to no connective tissue holding it together. Unfortunately, I only enjoyed half of the six stories present. The highlights for me were “The Pray,” “Jackpot” and “Gluttony.” Each had their own distinct style and tone with a wide range of fantastic performances. I could say most of the performances across all the segments are of high caliber, it’s just the other segments did not have engaging or particularly interesting plots. As a result, you have a very uneven anthology that I would recommend more if the shorts I thought were the strongest would have been released separately on YouTube or Vimeo. Worth a watch for the three titles I listed but the “fast forward” button may be used more than once.

Score: 5/10

Both titles from Well Go USA (@WellGoUSA) are out now on digital retailers. 

#Hopeless #TastesofHorror


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