Friday, July 12, 2013

Killer Toon: Death By Webcomics

Maybe those fuddy-duddies at the Comics Code Authority were not completely off-base regarding the corrupting influence of comic books.  Take for instance Kang Ji-yoon’s webcomics.  Her lurid depictions of supernatural vengeance are certainly popular, but they also seem to be coming true in real life. How exactly does she get her ideas?  That will be the question in Kim Young-gyun’s Killer Toon (trailer here), which opens today in Los Angeles at the CGV Cinemas.

Kang is not great when it comes to deadlines, so her editor Seo Mi-sook is initially quite relieved to finally receive her latest comic via e-mail.  Then she starts reading it.  Oddly, the first panels self-referentially depict her working late on the very same webcomic, but then flashes back to her deepest, darkest secret.  A malevolent presence starts terrorizing the understandably freaked out Seo, eventually forcing her to commit suicide, both in the comic and real life.

Responding to the call, Detective Lee Ki-cheol finds Seo’s body and the suspicious comic open on her computer.  Having evidently never seen a horror movie before, he decides this could be a career making case.  Logically, Kang becomes their prime suspect after she mysteriously arrives on the scene of another ostensive suicide foretold in her comics, at least until yet another interested party kidnaps her.

Like the E.C. Comics that obviously inspired it, everyone is guilty of something in Toon and therefore has it coming to some extent.  Combining live action with liberal samples of Kang’s work presented in a motion comic style, Kim’s film clearly evokes Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt, but it takes the concept even further.

As a result, Toon looks very cool, but it has a unfortunate habit of contradicting itself.  In fact, it seems compulsively driven to pull late inning switcheroos with the true nature of a primary character that simply become exhausting.  Still, Kim consistently maintains the heavy atmosphere of portent, slickly transitioning between Kang’s comics and the film’s objective reality.  The past clearly haunts the present, regardless of the exact nature of the machinations at work.

In probably his darkest role to date, musical theater veteran Um Ki-joon is surprisingly good as Det. Lee, an arrogant and ambitious man, but not a dumb flatfoot by any stretch.  Likewise, popular rom-com movie star Lee Si-young is quite the convincing basket case as the gruesome graphic novelist.  Kim Do-young’s ill-fated editor makes a memorable opening scene victim and Hyun Woo is also appropriately cold and clammy as Det. Lee’s twitchy junior.

Indeed, Toon boasts a strong ensemble and a darkly stylish look.  Unfortunately, screenwriter Lee Sang-hak’s adaptation of Lee Hoo-kyung’s novel just doesn’t always add up.  There are far too many “wait, why did” moments.  Still, for fans of horror movies and comics, there is some fun stuff to be found here, as well as some hardcore retribution to keep them on the straight-and-narrow.  Recommended for genre enthusiasts who value visual flair over narrative logic, Killer Toon opens today (7/12) in LA, at the CGV Cinemas.