Arang – DVD Review

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Ahn Sang Hoon


Song Yoon Ah Min So-yeoung
Lee Dong Wook Lee Hygeon-gi

DVD Release Date: May 8, 2007
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 97 Minutes

The Movie

So-yeong is a hard-nosed detective who is just coming off of a suspension. Even though she may seem quite innocent and appear the part of “good cop,” that is farthest from the truth. As a matter of fact, her suspension was for getting a little carried away and roughing up a suspect. And did she ever rough him up. The guy was being questioned by another officer and she just laid into him with continuous kicks to the head and chest. She’s not going to take any crap from anyone, but she also won’t turn violent on you unless you give her a reason too.

Off suspension, So-yeong is thrust right into a partnership with someone new by the name of Hygeon-gi. Hygeon-gi is a rookie to violent crimes coming from the forensics department, and was tired of just looking and not capturing the bad guys. Seems the new partners have similar ideas in mind because Hygeon-gi wanted to grab criminals by the neck and ask them how they could do such a thing to another person. So-yeong’s reasoning for becoming a detective is a bit different as she is searching for a man she wants to kill.

They are automatically put onto a series of deaths that have happened and ordered to find out more about them. The first case is a man living in an expensive home yet he hasn’t worked in close to eight years. Everything seems to have been caught in a fire, so it seems simple enough that he merely burned to death. But soon another body is found and this one looks to be another open and shut case of murder by heart attack. Upon autopsies being performed, it shows that both men died the same way. Asphyxiation by a deadly gas being inhaled in an unusual way, from inside their bodies.

More murders continue happening and each one looks eerily close to the preceding ones. As the two partners begin investigating further, So-yeong finds out that each man who ends up dead received the same e-mail before they died. The e-mail spoke of better times from ten years ago and showed a picture of a countryside with a salt storehouse (barn) in the distance. She finds out that these men all knew each other and had a past together. A past where they went on a trip together for fun and relaxation and a murder happened. It is a dark part of their history they wish to forget, so they all split up never to speak of it again.

So-yeong’s investigations find her visiting the storehouse and learning the story of a young girl named Min-jeong who had a tormented life when she was alive. The girl’s mother ran away, her father died, her boyfriend was murdered, and she is even rumored to have taken her own life out of sadness. By putting the pieces together, So-yeong realizes the Min-jeong’s boyfriend who was murdered is the same man that split up the friends from so long ago. It’s at this point that the rumor of a woman in a black dress with long hair begins to seem like more then just hearsay. A ghost seeking revenge may be behind everything, but there is much more to the story they don’t know so Se-yeong and Hygeon-gi aim to find out the truth before it’s all too late.

When first watching Arang, it is going to seem like every other Japanese horror film you’ve ever watched. The long-haired pale ghost creeps around and kills people while presenting little jump scares here and there to freak everyone in the audience out. But there is so much more to this film then what is to be expected from a Tartan Extreme release. Arang delivers a great crime story that could have been perfectly executed without having the ghost whatsoever. That is not spoiling it for you saying the ghost doesn’t have a role in the film, but I’m just saying that she wasn’t totally necessary.

So-yeong actually performs as I would expect a real-life detective to act. She checks into every little detail from every crime scene and connects them by way of the little things. So many times in crime dramas, there is confusion at first and then they skip to another scene and the cops are “explaining” how they figured it out. In Arang, So-yeong starts picking up little clues here and there and the film actually gives the viewer a chance to piece them all together throughout the duration.

And folks, by now we have seen almost every twist imaginable in horror and mystery films. There isn’t much that should really surprise or shock anyone any more. But the twist near the end of this film came out of nowhere and made perfect sense. I knew there was going to be one, so halfway through the film my wheels began churning and a few different scenarios played out in my mind of which I was sure one of them was right. Surprisingly, and quite pleasingly, I was not even close to what really was behind it all and it could not have made me happier. Arang is perfectly constructed from beginning to end and not only will it entertain you but it will surely surprise you.

The Video

The film is shown in 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and looks good. Most of the scenes take place in a dark atmosphere so that is something to get used to, but whatever colors visible are shown in bright hues and look great. The one problem is that when seeing blood on someone’s body or clothing, it looks red and fine. But when there are puddles of blood (of which there are a lot) on the floor or a table, it looks so dark that it is almost black and has no hint of red at all.

The Audio

The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and is great to sit through. The music is phenomenal and really makes the feelings of anticipation and fear jump out even more so then just watching the scenes. The music and dialogue mesh well together and one isn’t exceedingly louder then the other so you won’t have to keep constantly adjusting the volume. Great use of the back speakers for creaks and scratches make for an eerie feeling all around. And of course there are subtitles and they are perfectly in sync with the action on screen, so no complaints there.

Special Features

Audio Commentary – Director Ahn Sang Hoon, producer Lee Min-ho, and actors Song Yoon Ah (So-yeong) and Lee Dong Wook (Hygeon-gi) give some really good commentary for the film. They speak not only of the story but go into details on the locations chosen to shoot the film. They discuss how and why certain locales were picked for particular scenes and it is very interesting to hear how the film came to be with all their visions working together. But as with most Tartan DVDs, make sure to watch the film first before this feature so you can then focus on the subtitles for the commentary which is also in Korean.

The Making Of Arang – The cast and director give some small introductions and then the making of a different scene is shown every couple minutes. That really is all there is to it. Someone will introduce the scene and let you know what is going on, and then some music will play and you’ll see the filming of that scene. Afterwards, there are a few more words from cast and director, and move on to the next one. Not much to it but a nice long special feature at right around thirty-five minutes.

Behind The Scenes – The art director and the make-up/hair stylist now give their thoughts on how the film was made and what it took to make things look as they did. A few scenes and segments are shown being filmed, and that’s it. The two women discuss how the ghost look was created, the burnt house, and virtually every other effect in another thirty minute feature.

Interview With Cast – Shamefully this is only about four minutes long because it was by far the most interesting feature. The same make-up lady from the “behind the scenes” feature and actor Lee Dong Wook each share a ghost story they experienced or knew someone else had experienced on the set.

Interview With Music Director – Music director Jung Dong-In quickly says that he got the script and realized he had a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. Then his music is played as still pictures from the film are shown. That really is all there is to this feature, but the music is very good so it makes it quite enjoyable.

Deleted Scenes – Ten deleted scenes that are mostly taken from segments still in the film. So considering most of these are extended versions of scenes from the film, there really isn’t much reason for any of this to have been left in. None of them would have changed, altered, or helped the story in any way.

Original Theatrical Trailer

TrailersThe Ghost, Cinderella, Shutter (The Original), The Maid, and Cello

The Inside Pulse

Truly one of the better DVDs that Tartan Extreme has distributed in some time. The film is very well done and enjoyable that it alone would be worth the money spent on buying it. But I was shocked to find a good amount of special features included which is just so rare lately unless it’s a two-disc special edition. Not to mention that the features are good too and provide close to two hours worth of extra viewing time. For a fan of Japanese horror or not, Arang should certainly be one of the first DVDs you pick up.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Arang
(OUT OF 10)