Sunday, August 15, 2021

Fantasia ’21: Koreatown Ghost Story (short)

Chuseok is described as a Korean combination of Thanksgiving and the Day of the Dead that is observed in both Koreas. However, it is difficult for North Koreans to fully celebrate, because they have no food for their holiday feasts and no access to the graves of their ancestors. That would be fine with a young Korean-American artist, who gets rather creeped out by old Eastern traditions in Minsun Park & Teddy Tennebaum’s short film Koreatown Ghost Story, included in the Things that Go Bump in the East shorts block, which screens as an on-demand selection of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Hannah’s long-deceased parents were friends of Dr. Moon, who dresses like a medical doctor, but apparently also practices holistic medicine, notably including acupuncture. Therefore, when Dr. Moon asks her to come visit before Chuseok, Hannah agrees out of respect. Before she knows it, Dr. Moon has her on her table for an acupuncture session. Then things get weird.

Park & Tannebaum’s very funny screenplay shrewdly exploits the attitudinal gap between the two women’s generations and makes shrewd use of traditional cultural elements. Lyrica Okuna and Margaret Cho both earn a lot of laughs thanks to their razor-sharp dialogue. The actual horror movie business is not shockingly original, but it looks surprisingly good on-screen. The directors shrewdly do not reveal too much too soon and the visual effects are nicely realized.

Plus, cinematographer Jon Keng makes it all look quite cinematic. It is only fifteen minutes, but it is a very satisfying viewing experience. In fact, it might be the best project Cho has appeared in since, who knows—
Sharknado 5? Recommended as both comedy and horror, Koreatown Ghost Story screens within Things That Go Bump in the East, on-demand during this year’s Fantasia.