A found-footage Korean film involving vengeful spirits filmed inside a real-life abandoned mental asylum? Yes, please. Embark on the live broadcast of a YouTube show inside “Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum” which made its Quebec premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival.
“Horror Times” is a popular Korean YouTube show that often investigates locations that are said to be haunted, attempting to capture proof of life after death, like many other paranormal investigating shows. This time, however, the show’s crew recruits a few new members to go broadcast live inside an abandoned asylum where many claim that spirits still roam and where teenagers have also disappeared without a trace. Once inside the asylum, however, the paranormal investigating squad obtain much more than they bargained for, as the spirits are more than real and are not willing to let them escape.
First off, if you don’t like found footage films, then don’t watch it and complain. There are a few scenes where the cameras glitch (mainly in the beginning of the journey into the deserted building) and there is, at times, some camera shaking. That being said, I enjoy found footage movies and dove head first into this one. What’s intriguing about this film, among many others just like it, is that it was filmed inside the real-life abandoned Namyang Mental Hospital (named by CNN as “One of the Freakiest Places on the Planet”). Knowing this beforehand can add a chill to the already heavy atmosphere of some creepy scenes.
The actors are decent and the characters are typical. Some of the scare scenes turned out very well and are visually frightening, not relying solely on audio jump-scares like many movies do nowadays, sadly. Some ideas were well developed and successful in their creepiness factor.
Unfortunately, and this bothered me a little, almost the entire plot, in addition to some specific scare scenes, seemed “inspired,” and almost copied, from the Canadian, and far superior, “Grave Encounters” from 2011. I really wanted to jump aboard this film and tell you that it was a typical plot but extremely well-exploited in grand fashion (as “Train to Busan” from 2016 successfully accomplished (also from Korea)). Regrettably, the asylum that won’t let them escape and forces them to run in circles (also reminiscent of “The Blair Witch Project”), the levitation of an entire room’s furniture before slamming down to the ground, and the fact that some of the crew members rigged some seemingly paranormal activity in the beginning of their investigation before coming face-to-face with the real thing were all accomplished prior to “Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum” and in better fashion.
Nonetheless, if you enjoyed “Grave Encounters” or any other found footage-related paranormal journeys into abandoned establishments, “Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum” is still worth a watch for some amusingly scary scenes that will most likely make you laugh nervously with a friend as you try to hide how truly creeped out you are. This found footage feature film from Korea merits 3.5 stars out of 5.