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One Armed Boxer

End of Animal (2010)

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I got through watching this one last night, and can safely say it's one of the most quietly creepy movies I've seen in a long time.  The debut of director Jo Sung-hee, the story centers on a heavily pregnant young student who's travelling in a taxi from Seoul to her hometown to give birth.  When the movie opens, the taxi is already driving through an area of isolated countryside, and along the way they pick up a young man who claims to also be travelling to the same town.  Once in the taxi though, the man seems to know a little too much about both the driver and the girl, while claiming that something is going to happen within the next couple of minutes.  When the girl wakes up alone in the stationery taxi, with a dead phone and a car that won't start, she attempts to make it to the nearest rest area on foot, despite the mysterious warnings she receives over a walkie talkie to stay put.


There's little doubt that this is a low budget effort, and was in fact funded through a graduate grant from the Korean Academy of Film Arts (Sung-hee has since gone on to helm the big budget 'Werewolf Boy'), however the sparse surroundings and narrative pile on a sense of foreboding, and there's a genuine atmosphere of fear throughout.  The slow pacing and lack of clear explanation of exactly what's going on won't be to everyone's taste, but for those who stick with it, 'End of Animal' is very rewarding.  The fact that the girl is so far away from any major city, and several hours away from the nearest town, really drive home the isolation and sense of the unknown.  What exactly has happened?  Is it the apocalypse?  Or is it just a power outage?


As the movie progresses the main character encounters several people on her journey, all of whose motives aren't clear, and the growl of what sounds to be a monstrous beast omnipresent in the distance keeps things feeling distinctly unsettled, as if something is out there which you can't quite put your finger on, but then neither can any of the characters.


There's undeniably some very deep religious subtexts going on in 'End of Animal', and for those who enjoy reading into such themes, the movie provides some prime material.  Never losing its focus from the girls attempt to get to the rest area, small and ever so subtle hints indicate at something much more epic in scale that's happened to the world, but we never escape the small network of muddy countryside roads that the characters we encounter are stuck on.  This microscopic view of an event which carries an impact far beyond the scope of the movies narrative make Sung-hee's debut a remarkable effort, and one that's well worth a watch.





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