Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review: Antarctic Journal (2005)

Antarctic Journal (Review)
Yim Pil-sung/Song Kang-ho/2005
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime 

"...burns slowly with great suspense and tension, as well as a dreadful atmosphere."

An expedition team of six, led by Captain Choi Do-hyung (Song Kang-ho), travel to the Pole of Inaccessibility (POI) -- beyond any man's previous expeditions. On their journey, however, the team finds a journal by a British expedition 80 years prior...

Antarctic Journal continues as the expedition teams journeys to the POI through harsh conditions. The journal they found, titled the Antarctic Journal, reveals eerie images and journal entries of the past expedition, and soon reveals other similarities between the two expeditions. As one could expect, the conditions start to get to some of the members, causing some outbursts and out-of-character choices. Are the altitude and climate changes causing the psychological problems, or is it related to the journal? The final act of the film loses some momentum and has some confusing elements; I was ultimately able to grip the situation, though, and I liked some parts of the ending.

Antarctic Journal is a slow-burn psychological horror film with mystery elements. It's not a jump-scare horror film -- in fact, it barely has any jump-scares. Rather, Antarctic Journal burns slowly with great suspense and tension, as well as a dreadful atmosphere. I could see the setting alone being particularly frightening for some viewers. It's a bit on the cliché side, though. Without spoiling much: a main character begins to lose a grip on reality causing the rest of the group to suffer. Regardless, the film was very entertaining. Prepare yourself for a slow film, though, as it may be too slow for some audiences.

Song Kang-ho is fantastic in this film -- his character goes through a few changes, and its most notable through facial expressions, which is quite the accomplishment. There are some other notable faces for fans of South Korean films, such as Yoo Ji-tae, who hold their ground. The film is beautifully shot, the cinematography is often breathtaking. The music, although not heavily present, also shines with an ominous tone. Together, the cinematography and music contribute greatly to the tense atmosphere. Yim Pil-sung's direction is great, the writing could use some focus and could've gone deeper, psychologically at least.

Overall, Antarctic Journal is a great film with a dark, almost dreadful atmosphere and great story. However, there are a few issues on storytelling -- most prevalent during the final act -- and pacing. Fans of slow-burning films, horror or otherwise, will enjoy it the most.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and gore.

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