THE QUIET FAMILY (1998)
Dark comedy serves up hilarity and horror in equal measures with a killer cast and crew of future Korean cinema stars
In 1998, you could not quite have anticipated what those involved in The Quiet Family would go to achieve.
Firstly, there’s Choi Min-sik the year before action classic Shiri (1999) and five years before Oldboy (2003), where he would suddenly become the international face of Korean cinema.
Then there’s Song Kang-ho, who would also star in Shiri the following year and then go on to become the South Korean actor of the modern era, with stars turns in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Memories of Murder (2003), Thirst (2009), Parasite (2019), and a host of other smash hits.
Perhaps even more poignantly, this was the debut feature for Kim Jee-woon, a versatile director who would make A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), A Bittersweet Life (2005) and I Saw The Devil (2010).
This heady cocktail of rising Korean talent manages to mix to such great effect, producing something genuinely funny and darkly bizarre.
A family has moved from the city to a mountain-side house which they convert into a lodge for hikers. The family consists of father Kang Dae-goo (Park In-hwan), mother Jeong Soon-rye (Na Moon-hee), Dae-goo's younger brother Kang Chang-goo (Choi Min-sik), and their adult children Kang Young-min (Song Kang-ho), Kang Mi-soo (Lee Yoon-seong) and Kang Mina (Go Ho-kyung).
They struggle and toil to get any lodgers at all, but thankfully they break the seal and a single hiker takes a room. However, in the morning they find he has sharpened his room key tag and stabbed himself through the chest.
Concerned over anyone believing the bizarre nature of the suicide and the reputation hit the event would cause the lodge business, the family decide to bury the body.
It appears this event was less a blip, but more a start to a pattern as the bodies start to pile-up as a series of differing deaths befall the lodgings.
The film uses plenty of horror genre devices, but it is on the laughs where it delivers best. Choi and Song pair together perfectly as the family’s two most debaucherous members.
There is even a Hitchcockian flare to some of the scenes, which would seems hyperbole but for Director Kim going on to establish himself as one of Korean best modern directors.
Kim is in a much lighter mood than the heavier-themed A Tale of Two Sisters and I Saw the Devil, but this provides Kim with a comedy string to his impressive directorial bow.
The soundtrack is also unique for its focus on US music, running the closing credits to The Partridge Family’s I Think I Love You, a bit perfect piece of final absurdity.
You will be hard-pressed to keep track of the body count as they flow as readily as the laughs in this superbly rounded black comedy which has aged brilliantly.