Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Shudder: Lingering

Gyeong-seon's hotel is like the Overlook of Korea. It is bustling during high season, but there isn’t enough business to keep it open during the off-season. That makes it quite a creepy place to crash, but Yoo-mi and her little sister do not have many options. They come seeking shelter but find terror instead in Yoon Eun-kyung’s Lingering, which premieres tomorrow on Shudder.

Yoo-mi tried not to think of her unstable mother since her suicide, so she is stunned when the social services forces her to take custody of her little half-sister Yoon Ji-yoo. Being unemployed, with aher own history of mental instability, Yoo-mi is not exactly prime guardian material, so she reaches out to her mother’s longtime hotelier friend “Auntie” Gyeong-seon for help. Auntie seems delighted to have them, but her bitter, binge-drinking maid Lee Ye-rin, the only employee still on-staff, is less than welcoming.

Little Ji-yoo soon claims to meet a mystery woman in Yoo-mi’s old room, but the older sister foolishly dismisses her reports. However, she too starts experiencing strange phenomenon, often in close proximity to that room. Meanwhile, the local police department is preoccupied with the search for a missing North Korean defector, now suspected dead.

Comparisons between Gyeong-seon’s faded resort and
The Shining’s Overlook are apt (especially the hall carpeting), because both have a very distinctive look and vibe. Gyeong-seon’s atrium is particularly striking and the complex sub-basements are all kinds of ominous—so much so, it is easy to envision K-horror fans holding conventions at the filming locations.

Screenwriter-director Yoon crafts a massively creepy atmosphere and a nerve-rattling sense of foreboding. Frankly, the narrative itself is nothing special, like a cafeteria tray loaded with elements cribbed from “Angry Ghost” K-Horror & J-Horror, as well as V.C. Andrews gothic family novels. However, they all seem new again, thanks to the taut and effective execution.

Lee Se-young is terrific as Yoo-mi, portraying her as a messily problematic maternal figure, somewhat in the
Babadook tradition, but with more sensitivity. Park Ji-young and Park Hyo-joo, as Gyeoung-seon and Lee Ye-rin respectively, are both a hoot to watch acting catty and chewing the scenery, sort of in the style of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in their overwrought 1970s made-for-TV horror movies.

As is true of local franchising, location is often a key ingredient for horror movie success. Gyeong-seon’s hotel is definitely a good one that Yoon skillfully builds on.
Lingering is not a masterpiece of perfection, but it is a prime example of the merits of K-horror. Confidently recommended for genre fans, Lingering starts streaming tomorrow (11/12), on Shudder.