Memories of Murder, I Saw the Devil, The Chaser, Mother, Our Town, Death Bell, Truck, Bedeviled and a handful of other recent genre titles have more than a few things in common. They’re hard edged, involve murderers, hail from South Korea, and are all solid in their own rights. Why recent Korean cinema has such an infatuation with serial killers is hard to pinpoint, but now fans of Asian thrillers can add another worthy title to their radar: Blind, the latest film from Arang director Sang-hoon Ahn.
The film centers around an aspiring police woman named Min Soo-ah who happens to be involved in a terrible car accident killing her foster brother and blinding her. Three years later and no longer in the police academy, Soo-ah finds herself dealt another hand of bad luck when the taxi she’s riding in collides with something in the road. The driver tells her it was just a dog, but her police instincts kick in and she realizes his story isn’t adding up. After she learns of a missing person in the very area of the accident, she puts two and two together and convinces the police it was a hit and run. However, what both she and the police don’t realize is that this isn’t the driver’s first victim and he now knows where she lives.
What follows is a delightful game of cat and mouse. Granted, delightful isn’t exactly the word one first thinks of when they think serial killer movies, but Blind uses Soo-ah’s visual impairment not only as a source of good natured humor (even sightless she’s still a better detective than the one assigned to the case) but as a means to set up several memorable scenarios that are as inventive as they are thrilling. In particular, a chase around the underground metro stands out as a one-of-a-kind gag that’ll have you mentally tipping your hat to all involved for taking an ostensibly silly idea and making it totally work.
And even if all Blind had going for it was that one scene, it’d be strong enough on its own to recommend. Fortunately for us, the film refuses to get by on just one good idea. It consistently comes up with clever ways to use Soo-ah’s disability to the film’s advantage. It’s not all just visual treats, either. Blind gradually assembles together an unlikely trio to track down the serial killer, and all three characters play off of each other in fun, plausible ways.
Things do get a little mushy when it comes to our blind heroine’s background as an orphan and her relationship to her new found friends, and the serial killer, while menacing, is rather thinly established, but beyond those soft bits, Blind is a smart, enjoyable thriller that knows what its strengths are and knows how to not exhaustive itself using them. It’s not nearly as ruthless violence-wise as some of its recent murdering brethren, but it’s got enough teeth to it to sate those who require a sharper edge to their horror movies. Most importantly, Blind manages to stand at once out from and with the pack of Korean killer flicks. It’s not going to leave a dent in you the way Memories of Murder or I Saw the Devil will, but it’s not trying to, either. Sang-hoon Ahn and company just want to take familiar Korean tropes (the bumbling cops, the motive-less killer, the innocent bystander), spin things with a a few tricks up its sleeve and hope you’ll buy into the show. I gladly did.