It almost feels like it wouldn't be Fantasia without seeing some sort of Asian import. This year's offering, while I was there, was the anthology Horror Stories from South Korea.
A high-school girl is kidnapped by a serial killer who can only sleep when told a scary story. She obliges his request, but can she stall long enough to think of a way out!
I was actually shocked by how little enjoyment I got out of Horror Stories. Every anthology has its weaker moments, but all of these segments seemed to be competing for how many clichés they could pile on. With each passing story – which invariably included a character waking from a nightmare after something crazy occurred and/or a “WTF” ending of some sort – I became more and more frustrated. Perhaps even more perplexing was that this has to be the first anthology I've ever seen where the wraparound was more compelling and interesting than the actual stories within. And even that felt like a big “fuck you” to the audience when that concluded.
The filmmaking and sound design in Horror Stories was component, but, at this stage of the game, that should be a given. Almost everything about this venture felt derivative, like a snake eating its own tail. I am aware that the Asian market is now rife with watered down versions of the classics, but this was almost embarrassing.
I'm willing to put some of the blame on the less than flattering subtitles – which often read like they'd been run through a Google translator – but the fact still remains that none of these stories were able to get past their “what if” bylines. This was further compounded by the fact each short goes on way longer than it needs to, especially the last short about a zombie apocalypse. Oh, and just a tip, don't promise me rat zombies and then not deliver!
Horror Stories may just be the smoking gun of evidence that the Asian horror film has played itself out. I'm hoping that there's someone out there who can challenge that statement – I plan to see Hideo Nakata's newest The Complex imminently – but if Horror Stories is any indication as to the current pedigree, I believe I'm in for a long wait.