Check out my updated review! http://thevagrantrises.blogspot.com/2016/02/updated-review-12-february-29-aka-curse.html
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A tollbooth operator believes she is being stalked by a serial killer that murders victims every 4 years on February 29th.
Review: It sucks that last year was a leap year, but since my blog wasn't around then, and I'm not waiting another 3 more years before I get to this film, I thought I would shoehorn this one in at the end of the month. It's extremely difficult to properly describe the genre of this film since it's essentially an unusual combination of horror, mystery, and thriller. I say unusual because sometimes the movie is deliberately unclear on what it wants to be: throwing out jump scares while playing it slow with tension all accompanied by a mystery regarding what the hell is even going on! The story is surprisingly original as some journalist interviews the main girl, Jiyeon, from a mental hospital where she reveals to the audience the circumstances that led to her institutionalization. Jiyeon was a tollbooth operator working on some strip of road, apparently in the middle of nowhere, when she began to notice some woman with burn scars following her constantly wearing the same clothes as her. Then one night there is a momentary blackout at the tollbooth coincidentally at the moment a mysterious car approaches that turns in a bloody ticket. The police eventually collect the ticket as they reveal someone violently murdered another ticket operator not far from Jiyeon. It is of note that the detectives in this film are probably two of the most inept imbeciles we've ever seen in fiction as they handle evidence with no gloves, tell a suspect crucial facts, make the ridiculous claim that most murders turn out to be serial killers (quit watching too much TV buddy), and do one blunder after another. But it's fairly early into the film that the police, and even the audience, will begin to suspect Jiyeon herself is probably the killer since her story sounds crazy and she becomes increasingly unhinged. Then this mysterious car appearing and more people dying becomes a regular thing leading up to February 29th. Many plot elements will start to happen that may confuse the audience, but most will come to make sense by the end of the film and maybe even excuse the idiocy of the detectives. For instance, there is some legend about a bus full of prisoners that crashed and burned but one serial killer was unaccounted for that Jiyeon believes is either a ghost or a stalker; the film goes out of its way to make it unclear of which is true. The whole reasoning of why the ghost/stalker dresses like Jiyeon makes little sense especially since her friend claims she also sees the individual. Jiyeon becomes unnerved by the dark and has an apartment full of lights along with increasing hallucinations due to insomnia. I did feel a lot this was a bit detrimental to the story since not enough plot elements occur to change the audience's way of thinking away from simply suspecting Jiyeon. Anyway, by the end, the ghost or whatever appears, kills the detectives, and leaves Jiyeon in a state of insanity as she is blamed for all the murders. It is at this point that we are shown many moments from a different perspective implying that the police always suspected Jiyeon and were trying to catch her in the act. They conclude that there was a minor blackout only in Jiyeon's tollbooth which brought about a psychological breakdown after discovering she had been trapped underground for 5 days as a child. She had heard the tale of the undead serial killer from flyers being distributed by the mom (actually it's never clear if this woman was even a killer), and all the scenes of Jiyeon supposedly being attacked are then shown that Jiyeon was choking herself. But before you go thinking things are cut and dry and that Jiyeon must be guilty, there's never any physical evidence Jiyeon did the killings, they never deny the friend saw someone dressed like Jiyeon, they address the fact that the police were dumb and might be covering their asses, and they could never properly account for how Jiyeon got to the crime scenes and back unscathed. I felt that leaving the conclusion up to the audience was a nice touch, but the addition of a possible ghost felt a bit dumb as a forced element to throw into the mix; and let's not forget that fucking zinger that makes no sense at the end! For the love of god! I really like this film for effective atmosphere, creativity, and originality. The mystery could have been fleshed out more and less one-sided, but I understand what they were going for. The music helps build the tone effectively, and the scares are okay for the most part. On the other hand, things don't necessarily make sense by the end, the ghost/stalker is not scary looking at all, and too predictable plot twists. This film is most certainly worth a view just to see such an offbeat tale, but definitely go into this with the understanding that this is more mystery than a horror film.
Notable Moment: When we first see the killer pull up to the tollgate. The atmosphere was just right and the tone for the rest of the film was set nicely.
Final Rating: 6/10