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Rated 2.99 stars
by 512 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Family Splatters
by Adam Hakari

Would you give a video/DVD of The Amityville Horror to a couple moving into their first house? Of course not. Nor should you recommend that couples thinking of having a baby see the Korean chiller Acacia, which, like Rosemary's Baby and The Omen, might go a long way toward dissuading them. At least that's the way it seems for the creepy and extremely effective first half of this film. The second half, however, serves up the sloppiest final scenes and twists since Perfect Stranger reared its ugly head.

After years of trying to conceive a child, well-to-do doctor Do-il (Kim Jin-geun) and his artistic wife Mi-sook (Shim Hye-jin) bite the bullet and decide to adopt a child. Being impressed by some intriguing paintings at a children's exhibition, Mi-sook decides to adopt the young artist responsible for them, a sullen six-year-old named Jin-sung (Moon Woo-bin). At first, Jin-sung acts rather strange and withdrawn, carting around a seemingly endless supply of dead bugs and becoming closer with the dead acacia tree in the backyard than with his new family. But when he starts making friends and settling into his new surroundings, Jin-sung starts to emerge from his shell -- that is, until Mi-sook becomes unexpectedly pregnant. From then on, the young tyke's behavior becomes a little more sinister, especially in the presence of his new sibling, leading to a tragic event that hits the family hard...even as the once-decaying acacia tree mysteriously starts to liven up.

Roger Ebert often speaks about the notorious Idiot Plot in his reviews. To paraphrase this great critic, an Idiot Plot is essentially a story that would be over in an instant, if it weren't for the fact that it's populated by moronic characters who refuse to say the few words that would stop the plot from being prolonged any further. The latter half of Acacia works in this fashion, which is a real shame considering its fantastic start. On the outset, Acacia is a horror/drama that neither depresses you into being sympathetic toward the characters nor attacks you with a barrage of fake-out scares. Director Park Ki-hyun actually tries to meld the two genres, shrouding the story in mystery and coming up with a tantalizing family drama tinged with what may or may not be the supernatural. Sometimes, less really is more, a concept Ki-hyun takes to heart and uses to make Acacia's first act an enticing one. We really don't know what the situation is, whether Jin-sung is just an angsty youngster or if his motivations are more demonic, which makes for some truly compelling cinema.

Unfortunately, around the one-hour mark, the Idiot Plot mechanics start to creak as they're jostled to life, and when Acacia enters its last two acts, the viewer remains unaware that the denouement they're about to receive will essentially render two-thirds of the whole movie a giant waste of time. Once the big revelation arrives and you see how it plays out against the preceding events, you may be in danger of smacking your own forehead in disbelief. Acacia so overcomplicates the story that it's literally still explaining what happened even as the final credits roll.


How inept is the film in concealing its secrets? Well, viewers shouldn't look at the DVD cover if they want to remain completely and utterly surprised.  Of course, even the least astute viewers will be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together before the movie does. It also doesn't help that some of the film's most grisly visuals, including a blood-soaked tree, induce more laughs than cringes.

At least Acacia boasts a solid production design and decent performances (especially from Moon Woo-bin as young, troubled Jin-sung). The story may fall apart before your eyes, but the movie manages to offer a few pleasant distractions as it slowly evolves into a disaster.  

MY RATING: ** (out of ****)

(Released by Tartan Video and rated "R" for violence and some language.)

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