Suspenseful and surprising, a thriller that provides a twisting tale of desperation and loss as mysterious events plague an anxious student
While horrors and thrillers often evoke supernatural forces and otherworldly monsters to get their chills and thrills, Forgotten instead plays on the primal comfort that you can always trust your family.
What instead emerges is a disorientating new fear when a series of strange and frightening events in the family home leave two options – either my family is up to something, or I am losing my mind. Two sides of the same petrifying coin, no solace to be found in either option.
Set in Seoul in 1997, it returns to a theme found in many Korean films from the 90s when the country found itself in economic ruin and desperation sprawled through society. “You need money and I need your desperation,” we hear threateningly imposed at one point in Forgotten.
We begin with Jin-seok (Kang Ha-neul), a young man riddled with anxiety, who moves into a new home with his mother (Na Young-hee), father (Moon Sung-keun), and older brother Yoo-seok (Kim Mu-yeol).
Jin-seok is in awe of the successful and brilliant Yoo-seok, but matters seem off in the new house, including a room he is forbidden to enter. One rainy night Jin-seok follows his brother creeping out at night and witnesses him being abducted.
After 19 painstaking days, Yoo-seok suddenly returns, but matters are still amiss, sending Jin-seok down a spiral of suspicion about his family and the truth of their actions.
Deeply surprising on its own terms, Forgotten is a film where you must forgo your expectations, especially as believability starts to run slightly wild through its final act. Fortunately, it is a work which has established enough good will by this point that most viewers will go with it. Imagine yourself in a cross between a fun house and a rollercoaster and let go.
Forgotten provides a fine exemplier of many aspects of modern Korean cinema – genre-mixing, unthinkable twists, and far-fetched notions somehow delivered in a palatable fashion. With a global run on Netflix, a wider audience is likely to be introduced to such notions.
While it provides tense thrills, it does not shy away from deeply sad notions. A zero-sum game, a place of no winners. While you feel the highs of the thrills, everything is tempered by an overriding bleakness.
It can often ruin a film to state it is a ‘twisting’ work, but here seems to be a suitable exception. The twists are so hard to guess and so numerous, nothing is lost in informing you that this one twists, flips, leaps, bounds and somersaults until its final frame.
So much so, that by the end it is hard to imagine all the road-forks and U-turns are contained in a single film. The result is a unique, surprising and if you are willing to leave pre-conceived notions of plausibility at the door, highly entertaining addition to the Korean thriller genre.