THE CLOSET (2020)
A jump scare-inducing closet and a cohort of creepy children embolden this emotional supernatural horror
The horror genre is often underestimated for its ability to expose our emotional core and hold a mirror to our nature.
The Closet manages to take a more traditional supernatural set-up and build towards a final act that lays bare the child-parent relationship and the fear of failure which curses every parent.
While the faces of missing children are usually the hub of emotional sympathy, here they are reimagined as figures of terror, with sunken, blacked eyes and twirling around with genuine menace.
The film opens on old home video footage of a shaman ceremony, with the shaman slitting their own throat in front of an open closet. We then move to the quintessential horror set-up – the new house move. Sang-won (Ha Jung-woo) and his daughter Ina (Heo Yool) settle into their new rural home, with memories of his wife’s death in a car accident still raw.
The father-daughter relationship is strained, as Ina struggles with the loss of her mother and the fate of being left with a previously distanced, workaholic father.
Exploring her new room, Ina encounters a ghostly figure and screams. But when her father arrives upstairs she is smiling sickly and seems content.
“I love this house” says the girl hugging her father, but soon after the closet swallows the little girl leaving Sang-won in a desperate search for answers.
An exorcist arrives and provides the father with hope but explains the clock is ticking on getting his daughter back, with just three day remaining before Ina become a permanent resident of the closet’s beyond.
The dark dwellings of the closet provides plenty of scope for some commendable jump scares, with apparitions emerging with gusto with demonic eyes to boot.
It combines elements of Narnia, the wonderland reached through a closet in the children’s book, and American horror film series Insidious, with a ‘horrorland’ instead present beyond the doors.
A promising set-up loses it way slightly in a disjointed middle act and the direction of the film seems to be fraying slightly. However, that is soon forgotten in the wake of a brilliant and deeply engaging conclusion.
It is a debut outing for Kim Kwang-bin, who also wrote the screenplay, and there is plenty of promise in his handling of The Closet, suggesting that he can straddle the line between scares and emotion. A powerful horror combination if you can make it work.
The pain of losing a child provides the emotional spine which the film builds around. However, this theme twists to be seen through the eyes of the children instead. This produces an emotional ending which focuses on the neglect of parents and the consequences of family relations.
Such an emotional turn gives The Closet a genuine feeling of journey, breaking the shackles of generic horror and delivering something greater than its parts.