Paradise Murdered. Kim Han-Min’s fruitless success.

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The year is 1986.

On an isolated island off the coast of the Korean mainland, lies a small secluded establishment. The island is rocky, steep, and often surrounded by a heavy fog which makes travel to and from the island problematic.

There are 17 villagers. The friendly inhabitants range in age from young to old, but they all have one thing in common; their strongly held superstitions.

The arrival of a new doctor, Chae Wu-Song (played by Park Hae-il) on a bright sunny day marks the beginning of the story. The doctor, however, does not come empty handed; he brings with him large bags of sugar which are to be distributed to the villagers. The doctor is charming and handsome, and the female co-star (played by Park Sol-mi) is also quite taken by him.

This peaceful, utopian society, referred to by the villagers as “Paradise Island,” turns from paradise to hell in the passage of a few terrifying, short days. Every night a person is murdered, and nobody knows who is to blame. The hysteria begins to quickly tumble out of control, and many of the main characters are killed off.

Though it is not fair to spoil the film for viewers by giving away too much, one can safely say that from the beginning the director left many clues tucked away safely in plain sight. These clues the viewer may have difficulty putting together initially, but they continue revealing themselves much in the same manner as the films The Others, or What Lies Beneath did.

The story is reminiscent of a traditional sandbox scenario, where people are stuck

The cast of Paradise Murdered in a tense moment

together, but are constantly living in imminent danger. The plot is able to keep the viewer on the edge throughout the majority of the film, without revealing too much too quickly. As in many Korean flicks, there are many instances of unexpected, but welcome comic relief, even during some of the more tense moments in the film.

Financially, the film was a success, with an initial budget of $3,900,000[1], and a box office return of $ $14,249,906 by the end of 2007.[2] It clearly received some degree of recognition, based on the sheer amount of advertising for the film in 2006, however it did not come close to touching the top grossing Korean films. Nevertheless, this film clearly stands out because of its successful adaptation of traditional Korean cinema to a more Western style story telling.

Kim Han-Min has done a great job with the production of the film. Unfortunately the success with Paradise Murdered has not landed him many good jobs after his moderate success. He has had two low-budget films since, Handphone (2009), War of the Arrows (2011), and is currently working on his upcoming film Battle of Myeongryang, Whirlwind Sea, scheduled for release in 2013.

By Aaron Nolan © 2012

[1] “Paradise Murdered.” (2007). Internet Movie Database.

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