HOUSE OF THE DISAPPEARED is the kind of film that could be ruined by a review. The set-up is fantastic, the acting, the cinematography all first rate, but what truly makes Dae-Woong Lim’s ghost story spectacular is the way it all comes together in the end. Yunjin Kim (LOST’s Sun) plays Mi-Hee, a woman who serves twenty-five years in prison after being found with dead body of her husband and the blood of her son (whose body was never found). Now, paroled with larynx cancer, she returns to the house with one goal, to figure out what happened to her son.
Playing out in flashbacks as well as real time, Mi-Hee and a young priest strangely interested in her story uncover the troubled history of the home as a location of a number of people who have gone strangely missing. Getting past the fact that Mi-Hee must have had the world’s worst lawyer to not bring any of this over the trial we never see, HOUSE OF THE DISAPPEARED does a great job of pulling clues from the shadows bit by bit, all the while never revealing too much. Although for my taste, the film is a little too much in the flashback, and not enough in the present, the way time works in the house becomes a major plot point – and that’s all I’ll say about that – so just go with it.
HOUSE OF THE DISAPPEARED is anchored by a phenomenal performance by Yunjin Kim, who plays the accused mother in both timelines. Weighed down by a loveless marriage and a tragedy involving her youngest son (a well-played device by the filmmaker that in the flashback we see her with two sons and in present time she is only searching for one of them – what happened to the youngest one?), Mi-Hee turns to the police, priests, and shaman to try to unravel the mysteries of the house. The film is a about sacrifice, and Yunjin Kim is trapped between loyalty to her son and keeping her own sanity. Something has brought her back to this house twenty-five years later, something like fate, or destiny, or potentially doom.
I have to basically stop the review there because to explain anything further would reveal one of the best things about the film, the way the third act basically pays off every moment in the film up to that point. The smallest plot point, little snatches of dialogue, everything comes back in the last thirty minutes, proving that maybe we should have been paying more attention earlier.
Dae-Woong Lim’s HOUSE OF THE DISAPPEARED made its North American Premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival.