A prime time news anchor becomes ensnared in the circumstances surrounding a mysterious death in this tense but overplayed debut thriller
The cut-throat environment of a bustling TV news station provides the backdrop to the truth behind a strange death. Indeed, the station bosses are as much the creators of tenseness than any given murderer here – playing employees off against each other and shattering dreams with the dismissive wave of a hand.
It represents the debut feature of director Jeong Ji-yeon, who shows capable skills in crafting the type of dark Korean we have come to expect, with perhaps a scene or two more than it needed to allow a tauter final reel.
Extending her reputation the furthest here though is Chun Woo-hee, so brilliant as an adolescent in the remarkable ‘Han Gong-ju’ (2013) before finding a habit of landing herself in dark pictures such as ‘The Piper’ (2015) and horror masterpiece ‘The Wailing’ (2016).
Here Chun plays the film’s title anchor, Se-ra, a famous and established peak time news presenter. Just before a nighty show she receives a phone call from an unknown female claiming that she and her daughter have been threatened with death.
Dismissing the strange call as a prank, she finished the show and sees her mother in the evening. A former star anchor herself, Se-ra’s hypercritical mother So-jeong (Lee Hye-young) insists the call could lead to a huge exclusive story.
Under her mother’s advisement she seeks out the mystery caller’s apartment. Too late to save their lives, she gets the exclusive story on their deaths. However, despite the career enhancement, she becomes plagued by sinister images and begins to fray at the edges herself.
There is a dose of Korean screen royalty in Shin Ha-kyun – star of ‘Joint Security Area’ (2000), ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’ (2002), ‘Save the Green Planet!’ (2003), ‘Welcome to Dongmakgol’ (2005) – who plays the victim’s doctor and prime suspect of her demise.
Anchor rifts heavily on notions of celebrity hereditary, with her mother acting as this consist shove in Se-ra’s back. As Se-ra begins to fall apart, there is no sympathy from either the news network or her mother.
Dark and tense enough to be engaging, while ‘Anchor’ builds its mystery well, it ultimately overplays its hand. A revelation-busting final act perhaps tries to do too much, allowing its final stages to drag its heels when it should be sprinting to the finish line.
There is still a strong cast and creepily-framed construction for thriller fans to enjoy. And certainly plenty to suggest that Director Jeong has a future in such dark film matters.