Less than five minutes into Kwang-bin Kim’s The Closet Sang-won (Jung-woo Ha, Ashfall, The Chaser) stops his car to see why there are crows all over the road. He finds a dead fawn, it’s mother looking on mournfully. It’s a less than subtle bit of foreshadowing that sets the tone for the film.
Sang-won is a single father raising his daughter Ina (Yool Heo) alone since the crash that killed his wife. We see this in a flashback triggered by a crow striking his new home’s window, the bloody shattered glass reminding him of their car’s windshield.
Despite the ominous arrival, Ina takes to the house, even saying she’s found a friend. Her father thinks she means the old doll she found in the closet. We know it’s something else. And that happiness comes with some very sinister changes. Sang-won begins having nightmares. Against his will, he leaves Ina with a sitter and returns to work. While he’s gone she disappears without a trace.
He’s desperate and having exhausted all other options when Kyeong-hoon (Nam-gil Kim, Memoir of a Murderer) turns up claiming to be an exorcist. He says he knows what happened to Ina and he might be able to save her. But even he isn’t prepared for what waits for them in the world behind the closet.
On its surface The Closet is a fairly straightforward horror film. A haunted house, ghosts, a closet that opens on its own accord, etc. Underneath though it has a lot to say about other things. Things like the demands of long hours demanded by many jobs are destroying family bonds. Child care and child abuse also plays a large part in the story. Thankfully Kim never lets these overwhelm the film’s plot, but lets them add a layer of reality to the supernatural events.
And those supernatural occurrences are effective. The demonic children with their sharp teeth and whited out eyes are nightmarish creatures. The Closet adds an interesting touch, they can only see a person if the person’s eyes are open. This leads to a particularly tense scene where Sang-won has to escape a roomful of them with his eyes closed.
It ends with a trip into Myeong-jin’s realm to rescue the missing girl. It’s a familiar but unsettling place, an evil Neverland if you will. The resolution wasn’t what I was expecting, but is very effective.
Capelight Films will open The Closet in Los Angeles and Buena Park on February 14th. Other dates will follow.