Just when I thought the Koreans could do no wrong when it came to spine-tingling horror exports, along comes The Wig (a.k.a. Gabal), a ponderous flick about two sisters terrorized by a haunted hairpiece.
The film, originally released in South Korea in 2005, tells the tale of Su-hyeon, a woman suffering from leukemia, whose sister and roommate Ji-hyeon gives her a wig to cover the baldness which results from her chemotherapy. But little do either of them know that the wig was actually made from the hair of a suicide victim (gasp!), and thus Su-hyeon begins to take on the characteristics of the hair's original owner (which, needless to say, are not pleasant ones.)
Right off the bat, we've got an inescapably silly premise, and director Shin-yeon Won takes it all way too seriously. While interestingly shot, the pace is discouragingly slow for the most part, and the structure is such that at times the plot can be pretty tough to follow. Then, once you actually figure things out, it all turns out to be so cliche you almost wishe you still didn't know what the heck was going on.
The film's only memorable performance is given by Seon Yu as Ji-hyeon, the perpetually anguished and put-upon sister of the possessed wig-wearing cancer victim. Of course, she puts in her solid performance in spite the maddeningly inexplicable decision of screenwriter Hyun-jung Do to make her character completely mute as a result of a car accident which is vaguely connected to the wig, but never fully explained.
The scares are few and far between, and in this case the marketing of the American DVD as "Unrated" is particularly cynical. There's nothing beyond PG-13 level material here, but when it comes down to it, any foreign film that is released straight to DVD in the U.S. without being submitted to the MPAA for a rating can technically be termed "unrated".
The big revelation near the end manages to be confusing, ludicrous and boring all at the same time. And the final scenes, meant to be both shocking and poignant, are just clumsy.
Director Shin-yeon Won may be a talented stylist, and "one to watch", as some critics have branded him--but his debut The Wig is definitely not a picture that does his nascent skills any justice. He's made two more horror/thrillers since, which are allegedly far better, so he may become a major player in Asian horror despite this lackluster first effort.