Written by: jmh314
Sometimes you stumble upon a horror movie that has all the right elements in place to be a memorable film. Everything is there but for some odd reason, they find some way to work in the unnecessary. This is what ultimately keep a film called Face from being a possible classic. Face is a horror/thriller/suspense film from South Korea that I can think can be best summed up by calling it The Bone Collector of Asian horror. It does a lot of things right and sets the stage to be a great suspense/thriller film, but in the end turns itself into something it's not.
Face is a simple story at it's core. The film opens to witness a murder in which a victims heart was removed. Cut then to a hospital where a young girl is having complications from a heart transplant. The father of the little girl is Lee Hyeon-min who is our hero of this mystery. We learn Hyeon-min's daughter Jin is having complications because she is what they called "Beta-allergic". Think of it as a very rare form of organ donor matching. Her body is only compatible with organs from other Beta-allergic donors, and this is a very rare condition. Hyeon-min has taken his daughter to the best doctor in the beta-allergic field but he fears the donors heart is not strong enough for his daughter to survive.
When his daughter Jin is released from the hospital, Hyeon-min takes her to his mothers house. While Jin rests there, Hyeon-jin goes home to collect some personal belongings. While at home we come to find out Hyeon-min works as a facial reconstruction expert for the police. He takes decomposed skulls and is able to reconstruct a face from it to provide the police with a facial ID. While at home he is dropped off a skull that is the fourth in a series of murders. These murders involve bodies being completely melted to the bone with acid. No other facts are known as to why this is being done, but the police think it's to hide something about their bodies.
Hyeon-min is aided by a young student named Seon-yeong who is studying facial reconstruction. As the two work together Hyeon-min begins to have nightmarish visions. He constantly hears a high pitched squeals and sees a pale faced woman with long dark hair in his visions. He believes these visions and the skull are connected and works extra hard to give it a face. Things begin to take a turn too close to home for Hyeon-min as the police discover the victims in this case were all Beta-allergic like his daughter. Hyeon-min struggles for answers as to if these victims are the link to his daughters health. As he struggles to put the pieces together, his visions get worse and his daughter begins to have visions too. Will Hyeon-min be able to help solve the mystery and save his daugther before it's too late?
The acting was pretty top notch as the character Hyeon-min was one of the best compassionate investigators that I've seen in a film this style. At the same time you could tell his work haunted him and he demanded perfection from himself. Hyeon-jun Shin did a great job with this character and he helps keep the story flowing.
Director Sang-Gon Yoo did a good job creating the type of atmosphere needed for a supernatural suspense-thriller. Rain was used a lot to keep the mood bleak, and lighting was kept lowered but not in an overly dark and creepy way. The special effects were pretty standard. Nothing demanded extra attention as most the effects were pretty straight forward. I feel this helped keep a bit of realism to the film as nothing felt too overproduced.
I must admit, the story of this film kept me captivated. It took a few twists but didnt overdo them, and as a result everything fell into place just right. Even when I figured some parts out, the film was able to keep me guessing as things took slight turns. The problem I have with the overall story is the horror aspect. The visions Hyeon-min and his daughter Jin have were just unnecessary. Why throw in the typical Sadako looking girl with pale face and long black hair? Yes it provided a few small scares but it feels like it was added in order to qualify as horror. The thriller/mystery/suspense elements were strong enough to keep this film suspenseful, but the addition of the Sadako girl visions felt like a forced attempt to make this a legit horror.
Despite forcing itself to be a horror film, Face still stands up as a very good supernatural suspense/thriller. The acting and cinematography is top-notch and the story is well done with a satisfying conclusion. It did a good job of closing most the holes it created and still provided a bit of a twist. It is a very engaging thriller but it holds itself back by unnecessarily turning itself into a "horror" film. If it ditched the supernatural horror aspect it would have been just as captivating as a stand alone suspense thriller. Instead it tries to hard to force it's scares and ultimately is haunted by it's own pale faced Sadoko-style demons. Recommended for people who enjoy a good suspenseful mystery but dont require many horror scares to satisfy them in the process.