[box cover]

H

A Korean thriller that (as its packaging trumpets) borrows liberally from both The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, H (2002) generally lacks both the intelligence of the former and the innovative visuals of the latter. After a pair of murders mirror the crimes of an imprisoned serial killer named Shin Hyun (Seung-woo Cho), it becomes clear that a copycat is afoot. Hyun's victim list ran to six, so it's up to Detectives Kang (Jin-hee Ji) and Kim (Jung-ah Yum) to ferret out the truth before four more bite the dust. This requires Starling-esque visits to Hyun in prison, where he spouts Neitzschean drivel like "When you face the abyss, don't forget that you are facing yourself." Copycat, indeed. One nice twist in H is the characterization of the cops. Detective Kim is a chain-smoking female, haunted by the suicide of her partner and fiancé in the aftermath of Hyun's initial capture. Kang is her brash new cohort, a relative rookie who's no match psychically for the super-evil John Doe wannabe. He's the emotional one, while she's hyper-rational — a nice gender role-reversal, even if the basic dynamic is a rip-off of nearly every police drama ever made (including Se7en). The debut feature of writer-director Jong-hyuk Lee gives up the grisly goods right off the bat: The opening scene presents the discovery of a teenaged girl's corpse in a landfill, followed shortly by the unearthing of the dead fetus that was ripped from her womb. Even the most depraved Hollywood thrillers rarely feature dead babies, so this is an indication of either H's grit and edginess or its desperation to shock. Or perhaps half of each. Back to that uni-lettered title: We don't find out its significance until the closing credits, by which time the film's twist ending has played itself out. As distributors continue to shower American audiences with the hot genre of Asian horror/thriller films, it's inevitable that some, even most, will fall in the same category as H: not a terrible film, but a slick, middling commercial effort. Tartan's "Asia Extreme" DVD release of H offers a flawless anamorphic transfer (2.35:1), while the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks support the film's atmospheric sound design. Special features include an alternate opening depicting Shin Hyun's surrender to police that probably should have been used — it provides some much-needed context. There's also 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, including a bizarre PR stunt in which the film's cast rappels down a building and battles hostage-taking terrorists. Three "Easter eggs" can be found on the disc — one (from the Special Features menu) shows some additional physical training by the actors, one (from the Tartan New Releases menu) demonstrates a falling stunt, and one (from the Set-up menu) contains the Korean theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—Marc Mohan



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