Say Yes Review
After years spent as a struggling writer, Kim Jeong-hyun (Kim Ju-hyuk) finally brings the good news home to his wife Yoon-hee (Chu Sang-mi) that he’s just found a publisher for his first novel. To celebrate he’s purchased a new car and has planned to take Yoon-hee out of Seoul to visit the beaches of Sokcho. When they stop off for a bite to eat along the way Yoon-hee notices a strange man (Park Joong-hoon) starring at her. Moments later, after telling her husband, they leave, but Jeong-hyun accidentally hits the man with his car. He gets up and doesn’t appear to be injured, but he asks of the couple to take him to Sokcho. Begrudgingly they do so, and while in the car the man tells them that he will kill them, to which he follows up by saying that it was simply a joke. However, not long after Yoon-hee and Jeong-hyun arrive at their hotel they become victim to a series of harassments, and they suspect that the same man continues to trail them. The man presents himself and begins to psychologically torture his victims, until it reaches the point that Jeong-hyun physically attacks him. Now faced with charges of bodily assault, the couple must agree to the man’s request: he’ll drop all charges if they allow him to join them on their trip for three days. Stupidly they let him go along for the ride, but his intent is soon made clear when he threatens to torment them for as long as it takes, until Jeong-hyun plucks up the courage to kill him.
Situated in the north-eastern part of Gangwon-do, Sokcho has long been a popular vacation spot for its wonderful beaches, temples, granite peaks and spas, amongst other things like trees and mineral water. It sits on the coast line of the Eastern Sea and is divided into inner and outer Sorak by its highest peak Taech'ongbong. Outer Sorak, where the village of Sorak-dong is located, is a popular destination, being that it’s the gateway to Mount Sorak-san, boasting plenty of leisurely activities and accommodation, while the village of Oseak, situated in the south is home to Naksana temple which houses the largest sculpture of Buddha in Asia and holds a massive beach. Sokcho also hosted the Gangwon International Tourism Expo in 1999.
Now you may be wondering why I’ve suddenly gone all “Wish You Were Here” on you. I don’t have any ties to Sokcho, but if they’d like to offer me some nice packages anyway I’ll gladly accept. But fear not, I’ve not lost my mind. No, the reason is that there’s very little else to say in regards to Kim Sung-hong’s 2001 thriller Say Yes, which happily boasts Sokcho as being its great attraction, complimenting a genre type that’s different from the rest. But the reality is that Say Yes is one of South Korea’s early new wave attempts to fully emulate the popular American stalker/slasher/killer thriller, which has dominated the international market. And it does so unashamedly; this is no less than a Korean remake of Robert Harmon’s cult classic from 1986, which is impossible for me to avoid drawing comparisons toward, because frankly The Hitcher is the quintessential film about a complete loon stalking innocent victims type road movie ever made. It also blatantly borrows other plot devices, notably from Seven, with some scenes even echoing The Terminator. All of this is so clearly evident in how it’s staged and in how cold and calm Park’s antagonist actually is, in addition to the familiar check list of things to do. As such Say Yes offers very little to make it stand on its own. It’s devoid of any individuality whatsoever and as a pastiche maybe it could have been better if it had gone the comedy route.
That’s because it’s difficult to describe Say Yes as being a truly terrifying experience. No matter what the director wants you to believe, this is a film whereby it’s impossible not to continually question the actions of its protagonists, who you can’t help but think are incredibly stupid, and despite the film having an immense lovey-dovey build up between Yoon-hee and Jeong-hyun, there’s just so very little emotional investment from the viewer. Although the film arguably runs fifteen to twenty minutes too long it certainly makes up for any lag with its brutal climactic discharge of raw emotion and bloody spattering. Technically it’s brilliant, as with many violent South Korean productions of late, with a surge of realism which makes viewing quite uncomfortable and gives it an enormous boost of energy. But it’s also miserable and the denouement, while supposedly trying to be clever, ends up as being more of an eye-roller as we’re fed a kind of violence breeds violence mantra.
Of course, we shouldn’t be expected to think hard at all when it comes to these types of films. Usually as long as it’s thrilling enough and the actors are suitably pitched then they can hold our attention. However, Say Yes rarely even delivers on this front. Park Joong-hoon, who I like a great deal, doesn’t quite cut the mustard here as a sadistic loner. He’s made to act throughout the entire film as a tired, emotionless and all round desensitised villain, which is undoutedly the point, but in the end he’s only as intense as his (seemingly) blue contact lenses allow him to be, while he’s also seen as some kind of super-human, who can withstand the edge of a spade to the head and a pitch fork to the gut thanks to his tolerance of pain. Still, his character is kept a mystery and his motives are unclear which makes him a good, violent participant; it’s a rule you don’t often dare to break and in that respect he’s successful to a degree. But his relationship with the two protagonists, the mind games and the journey they partake in is ultimately lacking in spirit and passion, leaving the rewards very few in between.
Here we go, the first film we’re covering for the new UK Asian film distributor Third Window Films. The menu design for Say Yes is pretty basic, though it does offer something different, in that the text alternates between English and Korean. Oddly enough though the subtitle option appears in the extra features menu.
Bad news first: Say Yes is a standards conversion, and quite a distracting one at that. As I’ve stated before when viewing NTSC-PAL on an LCD screen some transfers are considerably worse than others. Say Yes is particularly distracting, with an occasional juddering frame rate, alongside ghosting. Not an issue for SD users, but another mark against those with more serious set-ups. As for the rest, we’re given an anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which appears to be a direct port of the Korean transfer from a number of years back. The print shows off some infrequent white specks, while there’s a little telecine wobble here and there. The Koreans like their high contrast and this pretty much reflects that with little detail in certain areas, particularly with the flat looking black levels. Skin tones vary in consistency; at times appearing natural and others being a little too over saturated. Detail is largely fine, however and the overall colour palette holds up well, with some vibrant colours, especially red, and no bleeding to report.
The only track available is a DD 2.0 Korean one. All things considered it sounds very good; the rear speakers still partake in the sound design, with ambient effects enjoying minor channelling, in addition to the score as well. Dialogue takes place across the central speakers and we’re given a clean sounding track that does the job well enough, without being too aggressive.
Optional English subtitles are available. These are presented in a semi-transparent white font, which reads well, but does exhibit a couple of spelling errors. Nothing too bad though.
The main draw to the disc is a “Making Of”, which runs for 27 minutes. This is your standard behind the scenes feature, broken up into several sections which deal with a particular scene being shot, most of which are the set pieces. In addition we watch the actors rehearse and view the shooting process as they try to offer their opinions. Park Joong-hoon really likes to get into his role and see to it that a scene is played out a best as possible. The feature finishes up with some brief interviews from the three principal cast members and the director. Optional English subtitles are included.
Rounding off the disc is a 2 minute theatrical trailer for Say Yes and a Third Window Films trailer reel featuring their future releases PTU, No Blood No Tears, Guns & Talks, Wild Card, Peppermint Candy and Kick the Moon.
Say Yes is never more than the sum of its parts; an average production in which Kim Sung-hong’s attempts to make it into something different are ultimately futile. Still, it’s no worse than half the other U.S. and Korean efforts that have been doing the rounds in recent years.