Friday, October 24, 2014

Review: Bunshinsaba (aka Witchboard) (2004)

Bunshinsaba (aka Witchboard or Ouija Board)
Ahn Byeong-ki/Kim Gyu-ri/2004
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...the horror makes up for its shortcomings."

Tired of being bullied, Lee Yoo-jin (Lee Se-eun) and her friends create a Ouija board and place the Bunshinsaba curse on their enemies...

Bunshinsaba continues to follow Yoo-jin after the curse is set in motion. The corpse of one of the bullies is found burned on a desk in school. A new teacher, Lee Eun-ju (Kim Gyu-ri), begins her class and unwittingly calls the student of desk 29 – the vacant desk of a deceased student, Kim In-sook. So, Yoo-jin begins to believe the curse is real and she is possessed by the ghost of In-sook. Eun-ju also believes in the curse, but sees that there is more to it. And so, the mystery unravels for a chilling climax. The ending is decent – there is some solid closure, but some events needed more clarification.

Bunshinsaba is in line with most traditional ghost films – and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The story is very engaging and interesting, particularly because of the chilling story and effective mystery. Bunshinsaba also delivers some great horror. Whether you're a fan of visual scares or jump-scares, Bunshinsaba has you covered. Some of the visuals were downright chilling, and some of the jump-scares were actually effective. The suicides, for example, were suspenseful and eerie. Fortunately, although it doesn't offer much more than scary visuals and jump-scares, the film captures a nice balance and consistency, so it doesn't get boring.

Well, at least not due to the horror. There are some moments were Bunshinsaba feels dull and repetitive. This happened during the latter half of the film, in my case. Although the mystery was coming full circle, I felt like it lose some steam. The film also suffers from some choppy editing, making the film feel inconsistent – it frequently jumps from scene-to-scene without a bridge or proper transition. Furthermore, the story can be convoluted at times. It can overwhelming due to the abundance of story it tries to have. On one hand, it's great because it tries so much. On the other hand, it's ineffective due to the limited runtime and inefficient storytelling.

The acting was strong, though. Lee Se-eun was really good with her facial expressions. Kim Gyu-ri, who also stars in Nightmare, delivers an enjoyable performance. The music is creepy and ominous, which is a big plus for a horror film. The cinematography was also great; I especially enjoyed the vivid lighting. The makeup was good, too. The DVD of the film looks good – obviously I'd prefer an HD version, but this is more than watchable. There are a few grammar and spelling errors in the subtitles, though. Writer and director Ahn Byeong-ki, who also directed Apartment and Nightmare, makes an ambitious story out of the classic ghost story; the mystery is interesting and engaging, and Byeong-ki delivers great suspense and horror throughout the runtime. However, there are some issues with the storytelling, and the film ran out of steam just as it was closing the deal.

Overall, I liked Bunshinsaba. It's a spooky and entertaining film with an engaging mystery. It has some flaws in its storytelling, which can be confusing, but the horror makes up for its shortcomings. By no means is it perfect, but it is definitely an entertaining treat for fans of ghost stories. And if you're a fan of ghost stories, you should be watching Bunshinsaba.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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