Several screams pierced the air – and the girl next to me even lost her shoe – in the Teatro Nuovo theatre on the humid Sunday night screening at the 20th Udine Far East Film festival; the audience was completely immersed in a roller-coaster viewing one can only expect from a true-to-the-bone South Korean thriller. And that is exactly what Forgotten, written and directed by Jang Hang-Jun, is. Featuring a story with subtle nods at Old Boy and The Tale of Two Sisters, it spins its thrilling tale with elements of horror and family drama, with twists that send your mind reeling – and if this peaks your interest, you can watch it right now from anywhere – thanks to Netflix, Forgotten is only a few clicks away.
The story is nightmarish from the very first second. Waking up in cold sweat from a terrifying dream in which an unidentifiable man is being brutally tortured, Jin-seok (Kang Ha-neul) finds himself in the car with his father (Moon Sung-keun), mother (Na Young-hee) and brother Yoo-seok (Kim Mu-yeol). Soon, the family arrives to their new house; as we watch them move in, we learn that Jin-seok, who is twenty, idolizes his older brother, who seems to have it all together, while Jin-seok himself is plagued by anxiety. His general emotional imbalance is almost immediately threatened by the strange room in the house, which his father forbids them to enter. Scary noises start to emanate from it and the pressure builds – then tips into an entirely different kind of story as one day, after their evening walk, Jin-seok witnesses the abduction of Yoo-seok. The police finds no leads and Jin-seok’s condition worsens – until after 19 days later, his brother returns with no recollection of what happened. But the plot only thickens as his brother begins to behave in weird ways and Jin-seok is more and more certain that the person who he shares the room with is not his brother at all…
Even thought the 109-minute thriller finds its way to a massive twist that turns the entire story upside down only halfway through, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the composition of the film is really well executed. Supported by music score by Kim Tae-hoon that keeps the audience fidgeting in their seats in the first half, the story evolves to leave any and all viewers feeling lost and torn and questioning everything in the second half, the emotions running high as the sympathies for the characters switch and twist. This is brought further by that extra mile with the outstanding performances from the cast – the task that was especially difficult for Kang Ha-neul and Kim Mu-yeol, given the multifacetedness of their characters. Their performances are outstanding, and they proved again that they are both immensely talented.
Being a South Korean thriller brings a certain pressure for quality, since the genre is such a treasure trove of excellents – but with Forgotten, Jang Hang-Jun can proudly join the ranks. The only criticism could be that the big reveal happens earlier than usual in the game, and it might have been better to delay it for a bigger effect towards the end, but that doesn’t change the fact that Forgotten deserves to be watched – and then perhaps re-watched, since that makes for an enlightening experience – Jang Hang-Jun really did an amazing job in the buildup. So take a deep breath, prep your mind and give it a go – you won’t be sorry.
Written by Sanja Struna
All photos © Netflix