The Wig Review
Modern horror films have often found success by imbuing familiar objects with frightening potential. In Hideo Nakata's wonderful Ringu, both the telephone and television became gateways to mortality rather than the modern media technology we normally think of them as. In Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse, anything using electricity suddenly became a terror to the modern consumer. Both these films could look to live on in the audience's imagination when they got home from the cinema and then hesitated to use these necessities of modern life. It is difficult to say the same for the similarly styled Korean movie, The Wig, as alopecia is hardly a factor in every home, chemotherapy is thankfully rare and male pattern baldness is not universal.
The basic concept of a killer wig suffers from the obvious humorous connotations, and it is as hard to take seriously as other comedy items suddenly filled with evil intent would be. I can never imagine myself being terrified by a banana, some jelly or wet paint, and a hairpiece with a mind of its own just sounds plain silly. Still, the iconography of recent Asian horror has featured long hair to a point that is decidedly fetishistic, and has served to de-humanise the various ghosts and spirits by obscuring human faces and suggesting something far worse lies under the matted locks. I suppose it was only a matter of time until the body of the ghost became separated from the hair as these images have developed, but still, to western eyes used to the thing from the Addams Family, it is more likely to provoke mirth than fear.
The film itself features very well made scenes despite the ludicrous concept and rather jumpy execution of a script that requires a lot of following. Flashing back and forward in time, it places a strain on the viewer to be sure of which character and which time line they are watching. I will admit that I got very confused on occasion about which character was coupled with which character, which character was currently sporting the follicle accompaniment and just who was ill and who was not. The story is that a terminal leukaemia is given a wig and unknowingly sent home to die with her sister and her partner. Rather than curling up and giving in, the terminal case is empowered by her new hair and is soon living life to the full and chasing sisters' squeeze. The background is eventually filled in and we are given a reason for the wig's murderous meanderings and sister is set against sister in a surprising conclusion.
There are some strong ideas in the film which on their own would have been very interesting. Questions of gender and sexuality are raised, and the plot arc is rather like a Greek tragedy with sick sister being the horny cuckoo in her sister's nest. I enjoyed how Su-Hyeon went from sickly and bed bound to female praying mantis as the sexpot within comes to dominate, and I enjoyed the daring plot twist which explains the sister's partner and his coolness to the various hotties after his booty. I have to admit that I also enjoyed how the camera was used throughout and the strong sense of atmosphere in the sets used in the film. I thought that the actors were directed well and that the commitment to the piece by the director was formidable, resulting in some fine jump scares and a lot of creepiness.
Still, despite good acting, fine production and some real skill in delivering horror and emotion, the film is flawed by a poor basic story which never breaks out of the silliness of a hair raising hairpiece. I am quite sure that the director has the ability to deliver an excellent scarefest, but here he should have spent more time on improving on the script, clarifying the sub-plots and paring down the revelations to a manageable and believeable few. Some of the scenes featuring a crawling or a flying wig should have been rejected for a more subtle and psychological terror, rather than the unfortunate hilarity which is achieved here.
So The Wig will not compensate for the blandness of current Asian horror, and I can only imagine that collectors of guilty pleasures will be attracted to it as a purchase. The rest of us will enjoy an undemanding rental where sense is forgotten for the thrill of the good set-pieces. In the end, the film is a case of poor concept but committed execution. The director may go on to better things but his hard work just can't save this tale of haunted hair.
Region free and dual layer, The Wig is a bare bones release and it is the same length as the existing R3 disc and has combing and motion shake. Yep, it's a standards conversion folks, and a poor one which robs the well photographed film of a lot of its atmosphere and impact. The underlying print is clearly very good and the sharpness is excellent, but it's still a standards conversion.
The audio comes in 5.1 and stereo mixes with the former being rather essential to the superb use of ambient sound in the film. The use of the LFE track and those scratchy noises which dominate Asian horror are very well done and the creepiness is well maintained by good distribution across front and rear. Both tracks lack mastering problems and the optional English subs are strong and sensible.
Probably a good rental, but a real shame that the video has not been converted properly for those who may want to purchase this disc.