A formula designed for adolescent and young adult spectators, intelligent enough not to underestimate them.
There are some well-earned scares, but Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum doesn’t stop feeling similar to other fare. There’s a lot to like in Gonjiam. I only wish the director had trusted himself more to take the horror road not taken. The result would have been something new, and fresh in a genre in which unconventional ideas are regularly rewarded. Gonjiam is almost completely devoid of violence or gore, earning its chills from impressively creepy locations and convincing performances of a largely unknown cast. An above-average entry in the found-footage genre. Thanks to genuine scares, a fitting cast and a strong adherence to verisimilitude from Bum-sik’s direction, it’s a haunting experience that’s bound to spook a few frights out of the audience. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum is the real deal. Deeply unsettling and unrelentingly scary, it is a film that must be seen.
Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum generates fear.
Park Ji-hyun as Ji-Hyun
Moon Ye-won as Charlotte
Lee Seung-wook as Seung-Wook
Oh Ah-yeon as Ah-Yeon
Park Sung-hoon as Sung-Hoon
Wi Ha-joon as Ha-Joon
Yoo Je-yoon as Je-Yoon
Park Ji-a as Hospital Director / Director’s Ghost
Deeply unsettling and unrelentingly scary.
Two teenage boys are recording their exploration of the abandoned Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital, where rumor states that the director of the hospital killed all of the patients and went missing. The two head to Room 402, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which no one has been able to open before. They try to open the door but suddenly hear a ping pong ball. Their broadcast abruptly ends but not before catching a glimpse of a ghostly face. After seeing news of the teenagers’ disappearance, Ha-Joon, the owner of YouTube channel “Horror Times”, decides to explore the building.
Ha-Joon gets together a group of six people (three girls: Ah-Yeon, Charlotte, and Ji-Hyun; and three boys: Sung-Hoon, Seung-Wook, and Je-Yoon) for a live broadcast. They set up equipment around the hospital. Ha-Joon stays at their base camp off the road to control the broadcast. The group ties underwear to a tree as a marker. Inside, Charlotte pours holy water in a small dish to record its reactions. In the director’s office, they find a group photo with all the patients and staff, and Ji-Hyun and Charlotte find a doll in the lab, which they later discover has moved seemingly on its own. They see that it is the same doll held by one of the patients in the group photo.
Je-Yoon and Ah-Yeon try to open the door to Room 402, while the other four explore the “Group Treatment Room,” seeing many strange coffins with holes in them. When Ji-Hyun puts her hand in a hole, her hand is pulled and wounded with scratches. The group flees in terror. Disturbed, Ji-Hyun and Charlotte decide to leave. Ha-Joon reviews footage of all six participants standing together and becomes unsure who filmed it if all six were in the shot. Charlotte and Ji-Hyun walk back to the base camp but get caught in an illusion as they encounter the underwear marker more than once. Ji-Hyun goes into a trance and her eyes, now completely black, open. Frightened, Charlotte flees toward the base camp, but upon entering it, she finds herself back at the asylum in Room 402. Ji-Hyun, still possessed, is in a corner with the doll. A naked man appears and Charlotte is attacked and pulled into the darkness.
Seung-Wook and Sung-Hoon see a wheelchair moving by itself in the basement. Everything in the room begins to float, and both boys are knocked out by flying objects. Seung-Wook awakes and is dragged away by an invisible force into the room. Sung-Hoon wakes and runs to Je-Yoon and Ah-Yeon, who are still trying to open the door to 402. Suddenly, a ping-pong ball bounces towards them and Charlotte’s screaming is heard from inside 402. The infra-red cameras start to flash, detecting a presence. 402 opens and the screen goes dark.
Sung-Hoon, Je-Yoon, and Ah-Yeon find themselves trapped in a dark room with no exit, standing in knee-deep water. Numerous ghosts appear; the three panic until they are possessed one after the other and swallowed by the darkness. Ha-Joon goes to investigate and gets strangled to death. The last one remaining, Seung-Wook finds himself strapped to a wheelchair and is pulled into room 402, leaving the group’s fate unknown.
In the epilogue, the dish of holy water starts to boil. The final scene shows that, despite everyone’s continued broadcast, the live stream had actually cut off after Sung-Hoon admitted the stream was supposed to be scripted. The viewers, none the wiser, lampshade the feed cutting after this reveal, the view count having dropped as the viewers mock the failed stream.
Release date: March 28, 2018 (South Korea)
Budget: US$2.2 million
Directed by: Jung Bum-shik
Production companies: Hive Mediacorp