Paradise Villa (2001)
By: Mr Intolerance on April 17, 2009  | 
DVD
International Film Limited (Hong Kong). Region 3, NTSC. 4:3. Korean DD 5.1, Cantonese DD 5.1. English, Chinese Subtitles. 90 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Chong Won Park
Starring: Han-Jun Jo, You-Mi Ha, Hak-Cheol Kim, Dog-Hun Shin
Country: South Korea
External Links
IMDB Rotten YouTube
90 minutes.

90 fucking minutes.

That's what I want back from the director of this awful, awful drivel, and the incompetent crew of numb-nuts who constructed this shoddily made and ported disc. Now to see if you can understand my barely contained rage, and why I'm seething as I write this, what follows is an unedited review, written as I watched the film for the first time. Read and learn:

Ahhh, the world of the LAN gamer. A lonely existence indeed, peopled by nerds, geeks and otakus. And, occasionally, me. So when a buddy of mine told me that there was a horror film set amongst this…umm…"community", I couldn't help but check it out.

The story is very disconnected at first – we have a young LAN gamer in his early twenties (who in true otaku fashion still lives at home with his parents), a young hot chick who likes to smoke naked in bed after sex (and is possibly a hooker), and a fella who has to go to his rooftop balcony to smoke. Nobody has a name so far, and there appears to be no link between them. This isn't helping me get oriented to the film. Neither is the further cavalcade of characters being introduced – for fuck's sake, can we establish a story line?! Who are these people? Is the director trying to cleverly establish the anonymity of the LAN gaming world, or is this just sloppy direction? My money's on the latter option.

Now, if I'm reading this correctly, this is also ripping off J.G. Ballard's greatest novel, High Rise. What the fuck is going on here?! I thought I was getting a on-line gamers slaying each other film, now I'm getting people in a high rise building getting aggro with each other over a soccer match! Soccer – sport, the natural enemy of the LAN gamer. I'm confused, and have possibly picked up the wrong film (although I did laugh at the film-geek joke about In the Empire of the Senses). Oh well, let's keep watching, maybe things will improve.

No, that doesn't happen. Obviously I have bought the wrong film (well, I have and I haven't. I just made a rather belligerent phone call to the "friend" who recommended this film – turns out he never saw it, and recommended it based on the fact that it apparently played at some film festival in Melbourne that had to do with computer games – thanks, pal) and this is a riff on High Rise, with some of the worst black humour I've ever seen. Our basic gist is that there's a Japan versus Korea (and it's not even specified whether it's North or South) soccer match on, and that most of the dwellers of an apartment block are watching it. Tempers start to flare over little things like parking in the wrong spot, or larger things like fucking somebody else's wife.

There are some very odd P-O-V shots and bits of framing that make me wonder if out there somewhere is a harder version of the film with more emphasis on the sex and violence, and the release has panned and scanned away from the good stuff. Too many things happen out of frame for me to really buy this as being genuine direction. I'm sure something is amiss.

I'm at least half-way into this movie by this point, and it's so fragmented and multi-story-lined that it makes no sense whatsoever. Absolutely none. I ain't the smartest guy in the world, but I'm also not the dumbest, and I have no real idea what's happening. This is the kind of film you and your mates would make when you were 14 and had no money. To say my patience was being tested by now would be an understatement. I can take trash cinema, and I can take it willingly, but this is just nonsense. And it has that kind of really inappropriate and puerile Jackie Chan-style slapstick humour that you get in films like Ebola Syndrome; this basically means that any kind of horror atmosphere is effectively ruined. In Ebola Syndrome, it didn't matter so much, because the whole thing moved at a mile a minute, and was powered by Anthony Wong's charisma, as well as his truly outrageous acting. This film suffers from a cast of D-range actors working with an E-range script.

Okay: you want more of a coherent overview? Lots of people who live in the same block of flats are getting annoyed with each other and violence occurs with little else to recommend the storyline. We have a porno star and her wannabe friend, a LAN gamer and his mate who are trying to make a clandestine film about the porno star (and have ripped off the best gamer on the Net for weapons – apparently he's rather vengeful…), a couple having a steamy affair who've killed the lady's husband, and a bunch of other misfits who you wouldn't spit at in the street if they were on fire, and that's the population of this film. Not the most likeable Rogues' Gallery out there, that's for sure.

The gamer who's been cheated turns up to the home of the fella who cheated, and knifes the guy's mother to death. He then washes his hands in the toilet – I know the common conception of video gamers is that we're totally out of it and couldn't cut it in the real world; well, I know enough to wash my hands in the sink, at least. Actually, that's a point – if he's washing his hands in the toilet, what does he use the sink in his bathroom for?! The mind reels in all manner of unpleasant directions… Ohhh, now I get the LAN reference (because we haven't seen it since the opening shots) – the fellas who've cheated the murderous gamer cheated him out of weapons in a World of Warcraft-style game – not real life weapons at all. Seeing as how there are some people who take that game more seriously than real life, it now makes a bit more sense. The movie is still sucking like a Hoover, nonetheless. And I'm still trying to work out if this meant to be social satire, or cheap farce.

The cheating wife and her lover have killed the wife's much older husband and plan to do a runner, but there's still the minor problem of disposing of the corpse to deal with. And also the problem of whether or not he's actually still alive.

The apartment block has a manic water-purifier saleswoman running about being generally obnoxious and as upbeat as if she'd just snorted half a dozen lines of cheap wiz. She's generally despised by everyone she comes into contact with. I kept waiting for someone to shank her, and couldn't really see the point to her character, from a plot perspective. I realise she's a reference point for the audience – everyone hates door to door sales people, after all – but that aside, her story arc just seemed like even more padding in a movie that is already more upholstered than my sofa.

The cheated on-line gamer kills again – seems like he's developing a taste for it. Plus, of course, he doesn't want to be found out before he's exacted revenge. Speaking of which, the fellas who've cheated him have now tried to get the porn actress interested in a website for her they want to make – this is naturally a sneaky ploy to get a first-hand look at her boobs. Here's that farce element again. No one can be as ditzy as this broad.

Corpse disposal seems to a major concern in this film. I get the feeling that Paradise Villa was made in a rush following the far superior The Quiet Family (later re-made by Takashi Miike as The Happiness of the Katakuris), which actually made that black humour/farce angle work, and work well. This is just tiresome and actually quite dull, despite a couple of good ideas which simply aren't capitalised on. I like the idea of the murderous LAN gamer nerd – but that storyline just isn't executed (sorry) with any kind of flair or panache. What is the Korean for "pwned" anyway?

The police turn up, despite the fact that no one's actually called them, and leave equally quickly, satisfied all is well in Paradise Villa, and yet the only person they speak to is the porn star's room-mate – did I mention this film had padding? This scene does nothing for the narrative flow whatsoever, and simply isn't necessary, much like the film itself...

Finally we get to the confrontation between the murderous gamer and the cheat, who's just been breaking into the porn starlet's apartment to take nudie pictures of her while she's asleep. The film moves into a much darker place here, much less overtly comic. This actually works in its favour. And so we'll bid a not so fond adieu to the inhabitants of Paradise Villa – to go much further would quite simply ruin the film for you, and while I would sandpaper my eyeballs before watching it again, I wouldn't want it said that I was a spoiler. There are a number of completely out of the blue surprises in store for you. All of the plot strands, if you'd glorify them with that title, still have to be resolved, and if you can spot what's going to happen to some of the characters, you're smarter than me – watch it, if you dare. Personally, I'd sooner recommend swilling diarrhea from the arse of a homeless wino.

Oh, and sorry for any confusion caused by the lack of character names, but after doing a little research, I discovered that most of them didn't have any.
Video
Awful. There is something deeply wrong with the aspect ratio – things keep happening off screen and the framing is all wrong. First problem, it's presented in 1.33:1, secondly, it looks like it was filmed through a sock. And yet the subtitles are crystal clear. A bit more research, and there are other versions of this film out there in different aspect ratios – 1.85:1, for example – so why isn't this one? It doesn't even pan and scan.
Audio
That same sock must have been placed over the boom mike, because the sound is muffled and very ordinary indeed. Claiming this to be 5.1 would basically be saying to crank all the channels as loud as they'll go and sit back and listen to the resulting mess. Distorted, unclear and ultimately annoying.
Extra Features
Not a great deal – there's the trailer and a "making of" featurette. Not exactly the most comprehensive of packages. And the featurette has only Korean audio and Chinese subtitles – but then again, this a Region 3 disc, so I can't really complain that it's pitched at a predominantly Asian audience.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
When I next see the friend of mine who recommended this film to me without having seen it, and misrepresented it completely, I will punch him in the throat. What we get here is a murkily lit, poorly acted, badly scripted melange of black humour, social comment, and some reasonably decent low budget gore shots. Oh, and some of the story is never developed adequately, or is simply left unresolved, which is sloppy writing. I don't need to have everything wrapped for me with a big pretty bow, but I like to know why characters are present in a film. Some of it is just a great big mystery – or just shoving random shit in to get the run-time to feature length. If that appeals, then knock yourself out.

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