Hillbillies, rednecks, your friends and neighbours – whatever you want to call them, rural types get a mostly bum deal when it comes to celluloid representation. Whether we’re talking America in Deliverance, Australia in Wolf Creek, or good old Blighty in Eden Lake, the cinematic consensus seems to be that those wilfully choosing to eschew the trappings of The Big City simply must have several screws loose, and now South Korea has put forth its own version of the killer country bumpkin thanks to Kim Sung-Hong’s derivative shocker Missing.
Everything is present and correct. Couple looking to get away from it all by taking an ill-advised trip to the boondocks? Check. Wonky telephone reception conundrums? Check. Nubile lovelies, indifferent local law enforcement, farmers with a penchant for feeding their chickens you? Check, check, and check. So far, so formulaic, but where Missing does make an (ultimately unsuccessful) grab for originality is in its treatment of said sodbuster, played with a shy but creepy verve by veteran Moon Sung-Keun. Director Sung-Hong thumbs his nose at convention by bringing him out of the shadows and we get to see him going about his daily routine, delivering eggs and interacting with the local townsfolk (shy) and, closer to home, “taking care” of his invalid mother (creepy).
Claiming to be inspired by true events, the film rather dubiously veers into torture-porn territory when he gets his hands on a pair of unfortunate sisters, suffering the same inevitable lack of credibility that dogged Wolf Creek‘s claims of authenticity – dead men (and women) tell no tales, so much of what is shown is pure conjecture. A tasteless approach, perhaps, but gore-hounds will care not a jot as the body count rises: as a docu-drama, Missing is a non-starter; as a gruesome thriller, it just about passes muster.