Hide and Seek/Soombakkokjil (Huh Jung: 2013).

The opening film of this year’s London Korean Film Festival, Hide and Seek is a fairly effective variation on the home invasion film. Director Huh’s debut, Hide and Seek was a surprise box-office smash at the South Korean box-office, keeping the big-budget blockbuster, The Flu (Kim Sung-su) from the top.

In Hide and Seek, a bourgeois family, Sung-soo (Son Hyun-joo), his wife (Jeon Mi-sun) and two children, Soo-A (Kim Soo-ahn) and Ho-Se (Jung Joon-won) find their palatial home in an exclusive apartment complex under threat when Sung-soo attempts to find his estranged brother, who he thinks has been spying on him and his family. Sung-soo runs into a middle-aged mother Joo-hee (Moon Jung-hee) and her strange daughter, Pyeong-hwa (Kim Ji-young), who appear at first to be helpful when visiting the run-down and condemned apartment complex where his brother lives. Appearances, however, are deceptive in Hide and Seek, and is it really the estranged brother who is the threat to Sung-soo’s domestic harmony?

The film is nicely shot, and the contrast between the poor and the rich is expressed in visual terms, as a question of space and place, of those that have and those that have not reminding us of the fact that South Korea’s economic miracle was built on the back of workers who were asked to sacrifice their present for the bourgeois future, in which they had no place. The unsympathetic bourgeois family is a convention of the home invasion film, which in South Korea, finds its finest expression in Kim Ki-young’s 1960 masterpiece The Housemaid/Hanyeo. However, because we do not know who the threat to the family is, our sympathies are not split in the way in which they are in The Housemaid, and we do not long for the family’s destruction in quite the same way.

With a number of effective jumps, and twists and turns, Hide and Seek is well worth seeing, especially on the big screen. My only issue was that there was a rather large plothole that was never explained which has to do with Sung-soo’s brother, and it left me with unresolved questions. I believe that this particular narrative thread had been excised due to the running-time, but I would have liked to see it having been left in. I am hopeful for a director’s cut which will include the deleted scenes when the film, as it surely should, makes its way onto DVD. And I look forward with great anticipation to Director Huh’s next film.

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