Chorokbam is the exceptional debut feature from writer/director Yoon Seo-jin. Playing Fantasia Film Festival 2022.
Trigger Warning: This film does deal with suicide.
The film opens with Night Security Guard (Kim Min-kyung) finding a kitten hung from a jungle gym. This omen is just the beginning of the downward spiral that Chorokbam (Korean for Green Night) expertly and precisely shows.
Though not a traditional horror film, Chorokbam depicts the rotting and deterioration of a family is as harrowing an experience as a horror film. As the family deals with a death in the family the cracks and faults begin to come clear. Decades of pent-up toxicity appears as some sort of Djinn bent on rattling the family to its very core. Horrifying incident after incident besieges the family. To which they only can watch this unfold with the same sort of reserved pent-up emotions they have for years prior.
Writer/Director Yoon Seo-jin has made a film about the micro-cracks in the interior of our souls and how they grow slowly but surely. Chorokbam is a cracked mirror looking at not just Korean society but all societies. The slow generational dwindling of fortunes and class status. The infighting over inherited wealth. The lack of empathy for even our family members. All plays out through this family.
Chorokbam‘s masterful use of composition, frame, and color over narrative exposition is one of the more lucid transfixing choices made by director Yoon and cinematographer Choo Kyeoung-yeob. There isn’t a single frame wasted in the 85-minute runtime. The way they are able to pull tension out of compositions is a marvel. The moment in the forest between the family’s mother (Lee Tae-hoon) and an animal is one of the most harrowing moments of cinema in recent memory.
Though director Yoon keeps his most sobering images of his film for its final scene. In these final shots, Chorokbam becomes its most critical and cutting. In Yoon’s film, no one is safe. Where no matter how much you try to look away from the signs, ignore them, move in silence, the cruelty of life will always rear its ugly head. In these final seconds, Chorokbam is as much a resonating cry for help for those that are silent as it is a sobering summation of the disintegration of family.
Writer/Director Yoon Seo-jin has made one of the more sobering and visually refined film debuts in recent memory.