0.0MHz 2019 Cover Photo

Considering the renowned success of Parasite (2019), among many others, South Korean cinema has finally started to receive a recognition outside of Asia that has been mostly reserved for Japanese cinema. The high calibre productions released throughout South Korea recently have flown under the radar of most moviegoers in the West, barring a few exception from a few key titles. Although, after the success of these sensations, the spotlight is firmly poised on South Korea’s blooming film industry; smaller, independent films are having their rights bought for distribution for a wider audience to enjoy. Such is the case of 0.0MHz, Shudder has obtaining the exclusive rights to the production to stream to a Western audience.

What is it?

0.0MHz is a 2019 South Korean supernatural horror film, written and directed by Sun-Dong Yoo. Though his directorial debut, Sun-Dong Yoo has a previous writing credit on the action film Musudan (2016). The film is based on the manhwa of the same name, written and illustrated by Jak Jang.

“’0.0MHz’ is a mystery club that reveals bizarre psychological phenomena. One day, five members of the club go to an abandoned house which is famous for experiencing the supernatural. They summon the spirit using brain waves and try to hear a statement in person. That night, the true nature of the spirit, fear, reveals itself.”

What worked?

Contrary to most in the genre, the film features bright and colourful scenery during the majority of its runtime. It displays rich, saturated colours that compliment the use of well lit, outside areas whilst filming, a vibrancy seldom appreciated in horror. Yet, it still successfully commands a stunning, foreboding atmosphere that drastically increases as the film progresses. Notably as a contrast, however, the film does ultimately resort to the general tone of dampened colour at the thrilling conclusion, very prevalent as a trend in current horror cinema.

The overall character design of the spirit’s true form is impressively terrifying, encompassing an inhuman, doll-like quality that conveys an uncanny valley feel. Moreover, the film compounds this dread with the character’s sporadic appearance and obscuration throughout its minor screen time. Although a more frequent application would be preferable from an audience perspective, it would have failed to deliver the same impact as a moderated effect, which is much to the strength of the pace: a deliberate development of horror.

Spoilers Ahead

Though most of the titular group lack any progression, So-hee, played by Eun-ji Jung in her first cinematic performance, shows excellent progression from start to finish. From a quiet, timid character in the film’s beginning, she slowly develops more confidence as she accepts who she is: a no-nonsense, badass shaman with latent spiritual abilities. Consequently, she takes the fight to the possessive spirit, with the aid of her grandmother’s powerful pneuma, to rescue her friend from the malevolent spirit’s grip.

0.0MHz 2019 Like Grandmother, like Granddaughter

The story exceeded my expectations, evolving far beyond the predictable “haunted house” genre I was anticipating. Instead, it explores subconscious regret, spirit possession as well as South Korea’s ancient link to shamanism and the continuation of the practice in today’s society (despite the rarity). If it wasn’t for this continuous, though steady, escalation throughout the story, the film could have easily stagnated, but it was kept fresh by this momentum.

What Didn’t Work?

With a meagre budget, the film effectively maintains high production value in every scene as an impressively thorough effort. In spite of this, one downfall is the CGI effects, appearing visually primitive and poor in implementation, distracting viewers from the intended tone of horror. The one saving grace is the limitation of such abysmal CGI, only appearing in a few scenes which does not significantly diminish the story’s overall feel of trepidation.

Though their respective actors give an excellent performance, the protagonists Sang-Yeob and Tae-Soo, played by K pop stars Lee Sung-yeol and Jung Eun-ji, lack any real introduction to the story, especially for South Korean cinema that is known for incredibly strong character building. Furthermore, these two characters are undefined and interchangeable, feeling more akin to negligible side characters rather than commanding protagonists. In the same way, they are both devoid of any progression and seem tacked onto the story as necessary pawns. Thankfully, this doesn’t detract from the narrative development, with the progression of other protagonists making up for their lack of purpose. 

0.0MHz 2019 trapped by spirit

Where Can I Find It?

0.0MHz is a Shudder original film and is available to stream via their streaming service here.

Final thoughts?

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It is composed with brilliant cinematography and a nuanced sound design, both being ubiquitous with South Korean cinema. Additionally, with a well paced story, some captivating characters and the inclusion of some comedic scenes, intentional and otherwise, it is a solid foundation which delivers an entertaining experience. Although certain imperfections are observable, the production is a splendid first attempt in the director’s chair for the young filmmaker. I can only look forward to any new releases by the up-and-coming director as Sun-Dong Yoo becomes more comfortable in his role – his filmmaking skill naturally increasing.

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