Sunday, June 03, 2012

KAFFNY ’12: Ghost (short)

A condemned neighborhood in Pusan is haunted, but it is not necessarily paranormal.  Yet, a sense of unnatural menace palpably lingers in the air throughout Dahci Ma’s Ghost (disturbing trailer here), a macabre short that competed in the prestigious short film competition at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and finally screens in New York this week as part of the 2012 Korean American Film Festival.

A criminal is hiding from the police in a boarded up house steps away from where his crimes were committed.  It could be the setting for a Grudge-like film, but he has apparently generated the lingering ill karma himself.  He is also losing his grip on reality, finding companionship in his animated chicken bones.

Featuring some bizarre Ray Harryhausen-esque effects and an eerie sense of place, Ghost is certainly a creepy film.  Whether intended or not, it also clearly dampens viewer enthusiasm for urban renewal projects, using the actual exteriors of Pusan “redevelopment” locations where similar crimes were committed in real life.  It also includes one of the most counterproductive product placements ever, for an unfortunate KFC.
Ghost is like an upscale K-horror movie, de-emphasizing gore in favor of psychological ambiguity and condensed into ten minutes.  It is art cinema for genre diehards, or genre filmmaking for demanding cineastes.  An accomplished and unsettling film, Ghost is definitely one of the highlights of the short films selected for this year’s Korean American Film Festival in New York, suggesting Ma is a filmmaker to watch out for.  It screens as part of the Shorts 1 programming block this Thursday (6/7) and next Sunday (6/10) at the Anthology Film Archives.