Bunshinsaba 분신사바 (2004)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: N/A
RT Audiences Rating: 5.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 4/10

BUNSHINSABA 분신사바 (2004) - Byeoung-Ki Ahn

When one hears the two words "asian horror," long-haired females is one of the most elements to be thought of. They are ubiquitously shown, whether the movies are from Japan or Korea or Thailand or so on. They always tilt their head down to the point of breaking their necks, and walk slowly, except in Japan, where they crawl. But the most significant component is unquestionably the long hair, forever blocking the females' faces. So here comes another Korean flick, Bunshinsaba, noted by several public audiences as one of the scariest asian horror films ever made. Do they have long-haired females? Oh yes, they do. In fact, I would like to hand the Guinness World Record to Bunshinsaba, for the category of "Longest screen time for scary long-haired females." Now is that a good thing? Ummm……

Bunshinsaba follows Yoo-Jin, a transfer student from Seoul, who is constantly bullied by her classmates. One night, Yoo-Jin and her friends, using an Ouija board, place a Bunshinsaba curse on their enemies. Yoo-Jin warns her friends to keep their eyes closed until the spell is finished. But for some reason, Yoo-Jin herself opens her eyes, and that is where the horror begins.

The cast of characters here is mostly female-based, taking place in a girl school. And no, the girls here will likely not sexually thrill male audiences, for they all look creepy even in their normal state. However, they are good and nice to follow, not to mention they are rather convincing in their acting. The actress who portrays Yoo-Jin clearly shows her effort, and even though she is often pulled down by the story and the script, she inevitably tries her best to flesh her character out. All in all, the acting is convincing and passes the criteria for a horror movie.

The editing of the film is a little choppy, and the narrative moves too fast at times without taking enough time to introduce characters. In a way, it felt as if the filmmakers focused on the second half of the film too much, and then suddenly rushed the first half. Unlike other notable horror films, Bunshinsaba also lacks a memorable soundtrack, however it does flourish with good lighting and cinematography.

Now to settle the argument: Is Bunshinsaba really the scariest asian movie of all time? Without even thinking, the answer is no. In fact, I would go so far as to question who in the world found this movie more unsettling than Ringu or Ju-On: The Grudge? The music queued scares, despite some of their originality, lack in quantity, meaning most of the film relies more on its storytelling rather than crawling under our skin. For a horror movie, it is completely understandable that it focuses more on narrative than scares, but when the story is extremely confusing and uninteresting, the audience loses attention and thus would desire more scares. As a result, Bunshinsaba ends up disappointing both sides of the scope. Not to mention, the second half of the movie suddenly converts into a painting fest, painting most of the screen with blood.

Even with the scares not being efficiently delivered, Bunshinsaba suffers tremendously from a confusing storyline. As mentioned before, the curse somehow states that one must keep his/her eyes closed. So what happens when they are open? The victims then become open to possessions, slowly consuming souls. However, only one actress portrays this entire process. To make things more clear, there is Actress One portraying Girl One, who also portrays Girl One being possessed by Girl Two as well as Girl Two taking full control of Girl One's body. As for the original past life of Girl Two, that is where Actress Two comes into play, and of course she needs to look similar to Actress One. Confused yet? In fact, I will challenge the reader. I challenge you to watch Bunshinsaba in one complete sitting, then orally explain it to someone without pausing or stuttering. Believe me, it will be the most difficult task you will never expect to have after watching a horror movie.

In conclusion, Bunshinsaba is a huge disappointment, and is another prime example of an asian horror film that tries to scare the audience, but trails behind due to the plot being illogical or confusing. Bunshinsaba begins with promise; it bears great cinematography, use of locations, and an appealing cast of females. However, at the end of the day, it is excessively convoluted, affected both from confusing storytelling as well as fractured editing. Furthermore, as a horror movie that is designed to just purely scare us, Bunshinsaba does not deliver when it could have, and therefore it will be hidden in the very very back of the shelf labeled "Asian Horror Movies," with no memorable recognitions, except the Guinness World Record for "Longest screen time for scary long-haired females."


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