Release Date: 30th July 2004 (South Korea)
Running Time: 90 mins.
Director: Lee Myung-se
Writer: Lee Myung-se, Lee Hae-jyung
Starring: Ha Ji-won, Gang Dong-won, Ahn Sung-ki, Song Young-chang, Yun Ju-sang, Do Yong-gu
Writing a review for The Doll Master has been frustrating because I was so uninspired by the film. Despite the great looking DVD cover and poster and the fact that dolls are creepy (as seen in Three Crowns of the Sailor¹) I found it to be a dull experience.
A woman is travelling to a doll gallery deep in a forest. She is a sculptor named Park Hae-Mi (Kim Yu-Mi) and she finds herself among a group of people including Hong Jung-Ki (Lim Hyung-Joon) a photographer, and Jeong Yung-Ha (Ok Ji-Young) a novelist, who have been summoned by Choi Jin-Wann (Cheon Ho-Jin), director of the gallery and Im Jae–Won (Kim Bo-Young), the doll maker. Park Hae-Mi and the others are there for two days of photography which will be used as the basis to make new dolls. As they make themselves at home and wander the halls, they notice that there are dolls everywhere and they seem to be watching them. When Park Hae-Mi encounters a mysterious girl named Mi-Na (Lim Eun-Kyeong) who claims to have known her all her life, Park Hae-Mi finds herself embarking on a night of terror.
Or she would be embarking on a night of terror if the film was capable of finding an even tone.
The film is a mix of horror and mystery. As is becoming quite noticeable with K-horror, there is a mix of drama in every Korean horror film I have watched thus far. The weakest films tend to have the worst drama as is proven here. The Doll Master starts off confidently enough with a brief historical sequence in 1940’s Korea with a tragic love story between a doll maker and a woman in a kimono. It is here that we get an interesting bit of Asian folklore which shows how an inanimate object can get a soul if people show love and dedication and become attached to it. The inanimate object in this case is a life-size doll. The film then fast-forwards to the future where a diverse group of characters are invited to a cathedral-like doll museum which is where the mayhem involving murderous dolls takes place.
The idea is great. Shame the script is rather poor.