Written by Kwang-soo Son
Directed by Man-dae Bong
South Korea, 2006
There are certain threads within a horror film that can work against its ultimate aim, to be a horror film. Cinderella spins out tendrils of horror, but it repeatedly stops those threads before they can take on any visage of horrific completeness. Some moments near the end are unsettling, but they are so divorced from the first spun threads that they are remote and aloof. A death here and a death there, but none of them with any great impact because Man-dae Bong did not bother to weave a whole picture with tendrils locked in place.
Atmosphere is perhaps the most important horror tendril that exists. This is most true in foreign horror where a well laid atmosphere can make up for cultural or story problems for the viewer. Cinderella plants the early seeds of an eerie atmosphere, but it dries out those seeds almost as soon as they are in place. Atmosphere doesn’t matter much when a film moves away from said atmosphere at the drop of a hat. That’s the story with Cinderella; it starts and ends with atmosphere but breaks its atmosphere in the middle.
One thread that should never be present in a quality horror film is that of dullness. Unfortunately Cinderella is all about being a dull film. Bong-ssi is content to let his camera stay static. There’s no visual life to Cinderella, and it shows. There are some moments near the end when gore laden body parts are revealed, but they are not visually jarring. Instead those moments are like a dull wave that washes out over the viewer, letting them know just how committed Bong-ssi’s film is to being as dull as possible.
There are some off-putting sequences in Cinderella. One that immediately springs to mind involves a pair of girls and a weird version of face painting. But, more of those moments were needed to overcome all of the flaws found in Cinderella. There is much better horror to be found in the world of K-Horror, those who watch it know that to be the case. Some of the kills in Cinderella are worth seeking out for their unique flavor. But, any horror fan worth their salt wouldn’t consider the kills in Cinderella to be a game changer. That being the case there isn’t any substance of note to be found in Cinderella, the threads just didn’t connect.