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Rated 3 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Killer's Kiss
by Adam Hakari

Although it's not unusual to see a movie critic's quote that virtually defines the term "hyperbole," the Korean thriller H goes one step further by cutting out the middleman and announcing in its own tagline that the film is nothing short of a marriage between Seven and The Silence of the Lambs. While appreciating the movie's sense of gusto, I'm afraid those words have created a mountain of hype for an exciting viewing experience which isn't delivered.  

The story begins with authorities coming upon the most gruesome crime scene they've been presented with in a long time: a woman's body, dumped in a landfill, with the corpse of her recently born child close by. This appears to be an isolated incident, until a few days later, when another mother-to-be is found in an even more grisly state. After discovery of the second murder, the investigating police realize these two crimes mirror the first two victims in the six-person rampage of Shin Hyun (Cho Seung-woo), a serial killer biding his time on death row.

Hot on the case are Kim (Yeom Jeong-a), a stoic detective who helped bring Shin to justice, and Kang (Jee Jin-hee), a newcomer who starts to get a little too emotionally involved in his work. But as dedicated as they are to hunting down Shin's apparent copycat, their quest is a confounding one, for the truth behind the new slayings proves to be as elusive as it is eventually shocking.

I have to give credit to H for not pussyfooting around the disturbing material it decides to take on. Unlike the recent chiller Untraceable, which dipped its little toe into the Hostel pool, H isn't the least bit afraid to get down and dirty in depicting its criminal acts, serving up some ghastly crime scenes that might make even the strongest gorehound squirm. Unfortunately, as both the running time and the investigation progresses, the film shows itself to be too talky. But, sure enough, as promised in the tagline, the film borrows certain elements from Seven and Lambs.It boasts the former's knack for nastiness, and the latter's cold but emotionally damaged lead heroine as well as its "villain" who spends time in prison thinking of how to speak in cryptic riddles. H seems content to use these two horror films as its own personal crutches rather than make a unique stamp on the serial killer genre.

Involving to a degree, H provides a freaky enough story to keep you wondering what's going to happen next. However, the more director/co-writer Lee Jong-hyuk builds you up, the more you realize the story is going to take an unbearably cheesy way out. And it does -- in spades. Also, if you were curious about what the title means, you'll tear your scalp out in frustration when the movie reveals its source. Still, H manages to be intriguing at least part of the time. A sense of dread drips from the story like a greasy slice of pizza, and the acting is capable enough, although the characters played by Jin-hee and Jeong-a are straight out of the Big Book of Detective Cliches.

American studios have spent the past few years rehashing Asian blockbusters for our "entertainment," so it's only fair those on the other side of the pond get an opportunity to rip off our finest and not-so-finest products. H belongs in the same class of films as  Perfect Stranger -- movies which aren't too bad until the plot's secret is disclosed. That's the point in when you'll want to add an "e" and two "l's" to the title.     

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

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

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