Konnichiwa! Dia Duit! Howya! Gather round children, it’s time for Straight Outta Kanto to tell you a ghost story… Koreatown Ghost Story to be precise.
Written, directed and produced by Minsun Park and Teddy Tenenbaum, while also starring the inimitable Margaret Cho as the striking lead “Mrs. Moon”, the 2021 short film Koreatown Ghost Story is a yarn you’ll wish you hadn’t heard… Unless you like hearing tales about the Korean “Halloween” Chuseok, marital obligations from beyond the grave and gruesome torture, both psychological and physical… In which case, listen on.
Struggling artist Hannah (Lyrica Okano) drops by for a visit at her old childhood neighbour Mrs. Moon’s gorgeous modern mansion. Mrs. Moon is in the middle of celebrating the Korean autumn festival Chuseok. Mrs. Moon explains to the Westernised Hannah that Chuseok is like the Korean cross between Thanksgiving and Halloween, where they honour their dear departed who are welcomed home (spiritually) for the holidays.
Sadly, Mrs. Moon’s son Edward, Hannah’s old sweetheart, has since passed from this mortal realm and is one of the spirits being celebrated this season. Will Mrs. Moon allow death as an excuse for Hannah to renege on her parent’s promise to ‘hand’ over her hand in marriage to the deceased Eddie? Like Hell she will! Hannah and Edward were destined to be the Korean Bella and Edward and death will NOT do them part.
Margaret Cho positively thrives in this role as the deranged yet determined mother-of-the-groom. Moon (mis)utilises her skills as an accomplished acupuncturist and doctor for scenes of delightfully claustrophobic and stomach-churning torture. This is not a film for the squeamish or needle-phobic. All the gore and scare FX are offset by Margaret’s wonderfully expressive face. With a simple quirk of her eyebrow or slight twist of her grotesquely made up lips, the audience is given an omnipotent foresight into the true ominousness and peril of the dozy Hannah’s plight.
The slick and smooth action is uniquely shot from the point of view of the gap in a massage chair’s headrest. The film is also dripping with an ambient soundscape playing on a classic horror style with Eastern motifs. There’s cheesy gore with hammy effects and grimly humorous shocks along the way.
However, enjoyable as it was, the short length of this film does a wonderful script a grave disservice. The film feels like an over-long trailer snap-shotting the best bits without the filler in between to give true context and scope of said best bits. This is seen most with the weird ending that needed more time given to it I feel to maximise its impact. There’s ample material here for a full-length film and I feel considering the content and the solid cast, it deserves a ninety-minute to do it justice.
So! Next time you’re feeling all unloved and alone in your singleness, perhaps stop looking for amour with the living. As Mrs. Moon so pithily says, “The Best Husbands Are Dead Husbands.”
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Straight Outta Kanto is the nerdy nom de plume of international horror-shock musician, illustrator and radio personality Venus de Vilo.
Straight Outta Kanto is a podcast and review blog dedicated to bringing it’s audience the warped and weirdest in nerd culture, nightmare fuel and 90s/00s nostalgia.
Champion of the Shurikon 2018 Pokémon League competition, certified VGC Dragon Gym Leader and CEO of Pokémon Fan Club Ireland, Straight Outta Kanto is an unapologetic otaku and psychotic J-Horror fanatic.