By Michaele Jordan: How can Halloween be over already? We barely had time to watch thirty horror movies –and those mostly classics, which are less than half our (horror) collection!
And yet, there we were on October 31, sitting on the sofa with a huge bowl of candy by the door, watching Bride of Frankenstein. (Bride of Frankenstein is very much a favorite of ours, with its adorable little homunculi, and the tragic ending. Even as a seven-year-old, I was heartbroken that the poor lady Frankenstein only got to live a few minutes before she was squished!) We’d also chosen Bride of Frankenstein because we knew it well enough that it could withstand frequent interruptions.
But it was raining, and hardly any children came to our door. We watched our movie, and even reran a few favorite scenes, only to find that it was a little too late to start another movie, but nowhere near late enough to stop our Halloween viewing. Surely there was something spooky in the way of a TV series available.
And there was. We turned to The Guest, (directed by Kim Hong-seon and starring Kim Dong-wook, Jung Eun-chae and Kim Jae-wook). It won’t sound like much, if you read the blurb. It fact, it sounds like a joke. A priest, a detective and a taxi driver walk into a bar… But don’t be fooled. This is one of the coolest, scariest shows I’ve ever seen! Smart enough to keep you guessing until the end – creepy enough to keep you up half the night afterwards. A perfect binge watch for Halloween.
In Korea, or at least in the sea-side village where the story opens, the term ‘guest’ is used to refer to a possessing spirit, a ‘visitor’ in the victim’s brain and body. (You know. Keeping it polite, like when we call the Fae, ‘the Good Folk’.) Guests are not good folk. We see a local man, Park Il-Do, leave his home and walk out into the sea. He stays out there far too long for us to hope he’s holding his breath. And when he comes back, everyone knows it’s not the same man. He wreaks havoc on his town, killing his family, for starters, and moving on from there.
We soon see that this spirit can move from host to host, whenever he feels his current body is threatened, or just inadequate to his needs. For instance, when he first walks out of the sea, he jumps into the body of the first person he sees, Yoon Hwa-pyung. Hwa-pyung is just a little boy, but at least he’s still alive, which is an improvement over recently drowned.
When a local priest tries to exorcise the child, the guest (who will continue to be called Park Il-Do for the rest of the series, rather than forcing the audience to keep the changing names straight) abandons the boy and jumps into the priest. The exit does not kill the child, (although, as you can imagine, it leaves him scarred for life) and little Hwa-pyung runs down to the highway, and hails a passing car, begging for assistance.
This was a mistake. The driver is concerned and, leaving her own child in the car, goes to Hwa-pyung’s aid. And dies.
You may be wondering if I am planning to tell you the entire story, taking pains to include a spoiler in every paragraph. Not so! All of the above is just the prelude. Episode two takes place twenty years later, with Hwa-pyung a troubled drifter, given to psychic visions, and still looking for Father Choi, the priest whom Park Il-Do jumped into back at the beginning. Since Hwa-pyung is the taxi-driver, I’ll leave it to you to discover the priest and the detective for yourselves.
I’ve told you before, and I’ll tell you again: they’re making some first-class television in South Korea. Along with The Guest, you might also try Signal (directed by Kim Won-seok and starring Lee Je-hoon, Kim Hye-soo and Cho Jin-woong). I’m am not as deeply into Signal as I am into The Guest, but I’ve seen enough to alert you that it is a police procedural which focuses on a haunted walkie-talkie. Surely that intrigues you? Both these shows are available on Netflix.
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Michaele: I saw BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN last Halloween because of TCM and that is a first-class movie, with excelent performances by Karloff, Clive, and Thesiger Elsa Lanchester mae a mark even though she was only on screen for five minutes It is definitely among Whale’s best work/