Posted: 05/26/2002

 

Tell Me Something

(1999)

by Del Harvey



This DVD is available for purchase at HKFlix.com.


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The video box warns you with the tagline, “A hard gore thriller.” Having recently watched several other contemporary South Korean films, I was intrigued enough by the cast and plotline to give it a try. Tell Me Something is a slick and dark mystery thriller about a serial killer who makes puzzle pieces of his victims—literally. He removes the head, arms, legs, and heart, then mixes up the parts according to a preset pattern and leaves them in black garbage bags in public areas. As the film opens we are shown the killer’s hands as he begins slicing off one of his victim’s arms. Then we’re introduced to Detective Cho (Suk-kyu Han, Shiri), under investigation by the force because of someone else paying exorbitant hospital fees for his dying mother. When he’s called to investigate the discovery of the first body, he accepts this as some sort of redemption and passage from misery and loss. Soon he is given command of the tactical squad assigned to uncover this serial killer, and quickly meets a beautiful and mysterious young woman, Su-Yeon Chae (Shim Eun-Ha) who not only was involved with all the victims and ended these relationships when their attentions became too ardent. Lieutenant Detective Cho places himself at great peril when he becomes drawn to her as the investigation continues and it seems he comes closer to the killer.

In spite of the obvious loss of information through language barrier (and the one I saw was subtitled and not dubbed!), I found this film to be intriguing and entertaining. The crux of the mystery, which revolves around family and confused childhoods and possible abuse, is fairly universal. But what made the film more accessible was the way in which it was handled. It’s almost as if this were an American film shot in a different language. There is a horrific aspect to the film, but none of the fantastic martial artistry of a Chow-Yun Fat or Jet Li film. Instead, we are given a sincere mystery about a faceless serial killer who has, for some reason, targeted all those who have come into contact with one woman. We are enticed by the mysterious qualities of this particular woman, we are intrigued by the plight and interest of the detective, and we are curious to know who is killing these people and why.

The effects are pretty good, and the grisly qualities very real. If you become squeamish easily, then this film is not for you. Body parts and blood are shown by the gallon. Even so, director/writer Yoon-Hyun Chang has given us a much more convincing form of psychological drama than anything from the hard-line Italians. The cinematography is very effective and dark, highly saturated and adds to the sense of mysetery. The soundtrack includes some moody bits by Enya and is quite catchy. The one big complaint I have is with the ending. The detective’s reaction when he finally learns the killer’s true identity was much too over the top to sustain my believability.

However, Tell Me Something is a good watch for its genre. I recommend it to those who like a little blood with their mystery.

Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly. He lives in Southern California, is a former Disneyite, a former Lucasfilmian, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College for giggles.



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