Ghost Mansion review: A horror film with too many loud jump scares

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Ghost Mansion follows webtoon writer Ji Woo (Sung Joon) to the creepy and decrepit Gwanglim Mansion. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)
Ghost Mansion follows webtoon writer Ji Woo (Sung Joon) to the creepy and decrepit Gwanglim Mansion. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)

Length: 106 minutes
Director: Jo Ba Reun
Cast: Sung Joon, Kim Bo Ra, Kim Hong Pa, Kim Jae Hwa, Park So Jin, Seo Hyun Woo

In theatres 15 July (Singapore)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Another South Korean horror has hit the silver screen, unfortunately to rather muted reception.

Ghost Mansion's plot follows webtoon writer Ji Woo (Sung Joon), who's looking for his next big inspiration for his next horror series, to the creepy and decrepit apartment complex of Gwanglim Mansion.

He comes across the mysterious, middle-aged caretaker (Kim Hong Pa) who talks about the tales of people who have either gone missing or died horrifically in the apartment, piquing Sung Joon's curiosity as a writer. Every story the caretaker tells him draws him deeper and deeper into the malefic happenings, eventually taking Sung Joon personally into a horror story of his own.

I am absolutely terrified of horror films. I'm not someone who would willingly go to a horror film either with a friend or without, but after the last Korean horror movie I reviewed, I'm starting to think that the genre isn't all that bad.

According to a friend who is a filmmaker, many Asian horror films use lighting, sound effects and editing to create the spine-chilling, jump-scaring films that you see today.

Unfortunately, I felt that Ghost Mansion wasn't particularly impressive. Perhaps the excessive use of loud sounds to create jump scares got a little tired after while, as we follow the stories of five tenants who lived in Gwanglim Mansion, told by the caretaker, who definitely is involved in this somehow.

Director Jo Ba Reun explored the contrasting use of dark, flickering light in the majority of the scenes with a few in daylight, which usually indicate safety and the absence of any scares, allowing the audience to breathe in between.

There are bits of morality to be learned as the caretaker wove his tales about the doomed tenants, all inextricably linked in some way or another, who had gruesome endings in Gwanglim Mansion.

The first is a writer (Lee Chang Hoon) who rented an apartment studio on the fifth floor. As a writer, he needed quiet to work, but discovers that there are noises resembling the giggles and footsteps of children coming from the floor directly below him.

Yet, there are absolutely no children living below his studio, and strange things happen to the writer when he finds and tries to dispose of the children's shoes which he finds in the shoe racks of the apartment below.

The writer is charged with the sin of being intolerant and oblivious. If I had realised there were children living below me, I would've tried buying them sweets to placate them and endear myself to them, in hopes that they would oblige me by being quiet when I work.

If I had realised they were ghosts, I would have left an offering and promptly moved out. But no, not for this guy.

The caretaker's next stories follow the rest of the other tenants; the realtor (Seo Hyun Woo) who convinced the writer to take up his lease, a pharmacist (Park So Jin) who lived on the higher floors, a student (Kang Yoo Seok) who moves back to Korea from overseas, and of course the caretaker himself.

The student finds himself back in South Korea after a period of studying overseas, and goes to crash with an old childhood friend. However, he discovers that the childhood friend's place is somewhat unclean; mould sprouts out of the walls and surrounding door frames.

HIs childhood friend even eats food that's covered in mold. The student takes it upon himself to clean up the house, but is secretly freaked out by the state of the place and covertly makes living arrangements elsewhere.

His childhood friend comes back and is shocked and taken aback and not in a good way, by how clean the apartment is; the two boys end up confronting each other. The student is guilty of taking advantage of his friend, and being judgmental of his friend in his heart. The ending is impressively shocking.

It's sad to say that Ghost Mansion relies overly much on in-your-face jump scares and loud sounds, rather than building up the horror through spooky tension. If you do enjoy loud jump scares, then Ghost Mansion is definitely a horror film for you.

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