by Jef Burnham
On IFC On-Demand May 20, 2009.
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This Korean supernatural horror/mystery is about… well, you guessed it, a cadaver. Although it seems like a flawed idea, since cadavers are inert, the presence of a handful of ghosts and a mystery surrounding the title cadaver make for one hell of an intriguing and scary flick. And cinematically, Cadaver is demonstrative of some impressive techniques, especially in the editing, for those who pay attention.
The mystery begins with a group of students as the new semester commences at their medical school. The team receive their female cadaver for dissection on the first day of class and one of the girls begins to hallucinate that their cadaver is bleeding. Eventually, the partially dissected cadaver begins to reanimate and, assisted by the spirit of a one-eyed doctor with a limp, punish the group in a very Ju-On sort of way; and the gang must find unravel the mystery of the cadaver if they hope to save their lives.
It all sounds pretty standard, and frankly, it is. The story is fairly stereotypical, and the characters are too, the group consisting of the nerdy girl, the perverted rich guy, the preppy chick and the fat guy, as well as the quiet introverted girl and the sweet guy who dotes over her. But it’s a very solid Asian horror flick nonetheless, and it is in no small part thanks to the cinematography and some clever transitions.
The filmmakers utilize graphic match cutting to bestow an extra layer of thematic depth on the film. The handles of a pair of scissors sticking out of a dead body dissolve into a pair of bloody hands held upward in an ovular shape, immediately implying no distinction between the murder weapon and the hands that held it. A long shot of illuminated dorm room windows dissolves into the drawers of a morgue. But my favorite transition in the film occurs when the students are playing cards. The cards are held out in front of one of the characters, and they appear to burst into flames, due to a subtle dissolve to a burning paper at a ceremony honoring the dead.
If you have On-Demand, it’s definitely worth a viewing.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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