Spoilers are ready for their close up.
Found footage is still a bit of an acquired taste that I still re-evaluate one movie at a time. It’s hard to identify what works best with this sub-genre, but abandoned buildings seem to favor the style. The low production costs has allowed an abundance of features, but as all things some effort goes a long way and makes a world of difference. Fortunately, that is the case of this film.
Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018) was directed by Jung Bum-shik. The crew of online web team Horror Times has landed an exclusive. They will infiltrate one of the seven creepiest places in the world, the Gonjiam Asylum. Each of the six members is wearing a camera rig that films both themselves and their environment. The result is a very creepy effect in which minimalistic events are easily heightened due to proximity.
The movie does a great job about giving us a focus on the characters first, making us invested specially in the newcomers. Nurse Ah-Yeon (Oh Ah-yeon), scaredy cat guy Je-yoon (Yoo Je-yoon), tomboy camera girl Ji-Hyun (Park Ji-hyun) and celebrity Charlotte Moon (Moon Ye-won). Unbeknownst to them, the first scares are really staged by the two other cameramen. However, soon enough some unscheduled phenomena starts and it’s obvious the ghosts are not keen on following the script.
The film is really good about selling the tension with decent performances by the cast. It also saves the most of its supernatural occurrences for last. I felt genuine apprehension at each time the camera rotates around a supposedly empty room. The movie understands tension and uses it to its maximum effect. It’s not the actual ghost that scares you, it’s the time it takes before it steps into the spotlight. That being said, once the really scary stuff escalates, the movie knows not to overstay its welcome.
Recommended for found footage aficionados. As a whole, I don’t usually enjoy the genre as it tends to favor jumpy cameras and way too many jumpscares. That being said, this one was particularly decent about having a solid introduction for the characters. I must add a personal reservation, it’s definitely not enough to make me a fan of the found footage genre. Yes, it can be scary but I always found it exhausting to watch.
That will do for now.