Movie Review: “Deranged” (2012)

English Title:  Deranged
Hangul Title:  연가시)
Director:  Park Jung-Woo,
Writers:  Park Jung-WooKim Kyoung-HoonJo Dong-In
Cinematographer: Ki Se-Hoon
Release Date: July 5, 2012
Runtime: 109 min
Stars:  Kim Myung-MinMoon Jeong-HeeKim Dong-WanLee Honey

In South Korea there’s an epidemic underway. Out of nowhere, hundreds of people are throwing themselves into rivers, streams and lakes and drowning themselves. What is even more stranger is that one day all the victims seem fine (other than increased hunger and thirst), but when their bodies are pulled from the water they are desiccated, as if they had suffered from malnutrition for weeks prior to their death.

The government and top scientists are stumped as to what the cause is, but one thing is clear…the epidemic is spreading…rapidly.

Once the cause and a cure are discovered, the race is on to produce enough cure to treat the populace. But other forces stand in the way.

Deranged starts off very strongly, a creepy little film with generally strong performances. Though his character is extremely unlikable at first, Kim Myung-Min proves ever reliable and creates a generally sympathetic character. Kim Dong-Wan as his black-sheep brother (also a police officer) gives a good performance despite very little in the script to help him along. Former Miss South Korea, Lee Honey, again proves she has serious acting chops, excelling in a fairly thankless role.

While the film starts off strong, it becomes rather bloated and repetitive, lessening the effect of the film and the messages it wants to convey. Time and again, scenes are repeated over and over (especially with respect too Kim Myung-Min’s quarantined family) without adding anything to the narrative and serving only to drag out the pace and run time.

The screenplay wanders aimlessly at times and could have used some judicious editing. Kim Myung-Min’s transformation from unlikable to hero is forced and lightning fast.  Kim Dong-Wan’s brother character could have been interesting but the director and writers never quite seem to know what to do with him and there is a period of about 20 minutes (possibly more) where he just vanishes.  Lee Honey certainly delivers as best she can, but the screenwriters never really know what to do with her or her scientist character.

Because of the repetitive nature of the film, director Park has a difficult time maintaining any suspense or horror.  Technical elements such as cinematography and sound design are all competent but not groundbreaking or particularly inventive.  They serve the film but never serve to necessarily enhance the drama.

There is a lot of social commentary here: ineptness of government, greed of corporations, man’s inhumanity to man, one’s inability to appreciate family until it is threatened. But the commentary is delivered with a sledge-hammer rather than a soft touch.

South Korea has produced some amazing horror films in the past (and present), especially in the “infection” sub-genre; sadly Deranged suffers far too much from its ails to really rise above at the moniker of standard fare. It’s a fine enough diversion, but you are likely to find yourself more often than not wondering just when the hell it will end.

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