고死 (Death Bell)'s Bloody, Successful Midterms
The kindest thing critic Park Pyeong-Shik could say about it was "going to a deserted island to crack the random number table would be more fun," and just about every name critic in Korea trashed it beyond belief. Yet, Director Chang's slasher flick 고死 (Death Bell) is without a doubt the surprise hit of the summer. Setting aside its critical trashing, one of the reasons the film is doing well is because it represents the sole horror film of the season -- although 외톨이 (Loner) is coming soon -- and, perhaps even more important, that its stars have been going around the country and all over TV to promote it. What Nam Gyu-Ri is doing on TV is close to noise marketing, as she's just about everywhere, and has been giving what seems to be like one interview per day [I even spotted her a few days ago on the 에덴의 동쪽 (East of Eden) special. Her reason for being there? her group SeeYa sang for the drama's music video, she's friends with Kim Beom, and, yeah.... to promote the film]. But, hey, it's working.
The film, a rather low-budget affair which already broke even after about a dozen days on release, already sold 1.5 million tickets, a particularly tough task as it was going head to head with things like The Dark Knight, 좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈 (The Good, The Bad, and the Weird) and that thing down in Beijing. What's more, the film seems to be doing well overseas as well, which is kind of a novelty these days in Chungmuro. Mirovision, which handles international sales, commented that contract offers are coming from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Germany, the Uk and more. Particularly interesting is Japan's situation, as five companies came to Korea to see the film and taste the waters. Mirovision's strategy seems to point at the TIFF, where they'll start promotion en masse. Quality aside, this kind of small scale genre project targeting niches (in this case the "highteen" crowd) is likely to grow exponentially, in an industry which is facing increasingly serious funding problems.