Whilst here in the UK when it comes to Horror, it seems we’re more inclined to go for the more gothic ghost horror or the generic American style that overloaded the genre. In Asia however, it seems the horror flicks tend to be high school kids, slasher maniacs or even both like in the latest edition to Asian category K-Horror Death Bell.
It’s a Saturday Seoul City, School midterm exams and the top 20 best students are brought in for extra tutorials for preparation for University exams along with getting ready for the visit of English students their School. As the academic fun starts so does the killing as the killer one by one torments the students by confronting them with riddles and puzzles to solve or they’ll end up next on the killer’s kill list.
If you’re a hardcore fan of all things Asian horror Death Bell will be a very enjoyable affair. The film has often been described as Saw meets Battle Royale, though at a closer look this one is more American slasher style but with a bit more classless generic than its counterparts. Death Bell is not a torture porn like Saw but we do get enough gore, bloodshed which would keep gore fetishists interested in this for the films 90 minutes running time. Really the similarities with Saw are more with the Killer tormenting his or hers victims before finishing them off with some nasty medieval looking contraption, as for gore element that’s more Battle Royale but that doesn’t mean to say this film is on par to be considered Cult status like its Japanese counterpart.
Personally, the Battle Royale connection is more with the film’s theme, the message of education highlighting Korea’s (& Asia in General) obsession with near perfect academic grades. It also highlights the problem of arrogance, ignorance of the students with lower but necessary bad results maybe needing an extra hand so you could say the message is a 2 dog thing. Highlighting the need for a balanced look, supported education system which ironically sounds all too familiar cry here in the UK as well.
Despite sloppy and at time predictable plot Death Bell is actually an enjoyable flick which is fast paced, sadistic, gory and even silly film which wouldn’t look out of place in any Asian horror enthusiasts DVD collection or for that matter horror fans especially for the nice twist at the end.
★★★| Paul Devine
Horror | South Korea, 2008 | 18 | 24th October 2011 (UK) | Terror Cotta | Dir:Yoon Hong-Seung | Beom-su Lee, Gyu-ri Nam, Shin-ae Yu | Buy:Death Bell [DVD]
Originally Posted at Cinehouse | 23rd October 2011