Monday, February 24, 2014

Review: Death Bell (aka Gosa) (2008)

Death Bell (aka Gosa) (Review)
Yoon Hong-Seung (as Chang)/Nam Gyu-Ri/2008
Where to watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime 

"The only issue I had was with the ending..."

The highest graded students – refer to the elite of the school – takes a special class, where they are tormented by an unknown presence...

Death Bell follows Kang Ina (Nam Gyu-Ri), a smart, dedicated, and even witty student, as well as the rest of the students attending the special cast and the staff. Before the exam even begins, a mysterious voice announces a new test for the students: this elite class has to answer difficult questions before the timer runs out, or one captured student will die. The story follows the students as they try to answer the questions, escape, and split up, so it really isn't as repetitive as it sounds. Death Bell reaches a predictable but good conclusion; some elements may surprise you, but most of the climax is by-the-books and cliché.

Death Bell, also known as Gosa, features a creative concept with great execution. I wouldn’t classify it as a torture or gory film, although it has elements of both. The concept reminds me somewhat of Saw, but the lives' of the victims are in other people's hands instead of their own. The torture is not very graphic, though, including fish tanks, washing machines, and some hot melting wax – I know, kinky, right? There are some spooky visuals, and more than a handful of jump-scares – not much suspense, but plenty of jump-scares. It was very entertaining, though, and kept me hooked from beginning to end. Aside from being predictable, the ending really leaves many unanswered questions; one quick, unnecessary scene right before the credits adds on to that confusion; the scene during the credits is very sinister, though, a well done addition.

The cast does well, much better acting than most contemporary horror films. This is Nam Guy-Ri’s acting debut, and she does very well with her performance – not overdone but not boring either, she's got screen presence and charisma. The makeup is great during most scenes, but it's never a highlight of the film; like I said, the film isn't graphically violent, so the makeup and special effects don't have much of chance to shine. The cinematography is mostly great, a few scenes are too dark, though. Yoon Hong-Seung does well as director, he creates a dark film and really uses the concept well; there are some loose ends and bizarre scenes, but it's a great effort.

Overall, Death Bell is a great horror film from South Korea. I really enjoyed the creative concept, and the execution was equally impressive. The only issue I had was with the ending of the film, it really was a bit disappointing considering the originality of the rest of the movie. Fans of Saw, supernatural, and slasher horror films will likely enjoy it the most.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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