Film & DVD Review
With their father fired, a family repairs an old mountain cottage and makes it an inn. Ever guest they receive ends up dead and leads them into covering up serial murder. As they have more bodies to bury, their response becomes more bold and apathetic. The murders and secret burials become the family's daily routine and a technique they enjoy refining!
I watched A Tale Of Two Sisters relatively recently and that film convinced me that Kim Ji-Wun was a director that I liked. In fact that film put him among my top directors, even though it was the only film of his I'd seen. I like films that have a dark tone to them, and that is the reason I chose The Quiet Family - A Ruthless Comedy as the next film of his that I would watch. You just can't beat a good bit of black comedy!
The plot, that I'll cover, is very simple in premise. A family buys a mountain cottage, repairs it and does it up to make it into a guesthouse. At first business is slow, but when first guests start arriving, unexpected things happen - the guests die. Not wanting their business to be ruined they choose to cover up the deaths and bury the corpses themselves. As the bodies start to pile up, their grave-digging ability improves substantially!
From what I've read and heard, this film was chosen to be remade by Takeshi Miike in Japan, and the outcome of that film was Happiness of the Katakuris. I've not seen that film, but I've read that it wasn't a direct remake, but was more of a cross between The Sound of Music and Evil Dead in the end product. This film was only made in 1998, and the 'remake' was made in 2001. With such a short time between the two, there must have been something special about this film in order for the remake to even be contemplated in the first place.
Well there is something a little special about it, just not that special, or rather not as special as I was hoping. With the expectations I had set for the film given the brilliance that was his A Tale Of Two Sisters, there really was no way it could ever live up to them. However, while falling short, The Quiet Family is nonetheless a highly enjoyable film. The film's tone is brilliant. It is very dark and reasonably serious, but with a comic taint to it. For me the film was never played as a comedy, but the situations that the characters sometimes found themselves in were comedic. Having these humorous scenes played seriously, the humour factor is increased, as there is nothing saying "LOOK THIS IS FUNNY!!!" being shoved down your throat. The humour is generally quite subtle allowing the darker elements of the story to shine through.
These darker elements are the building blocks for the whole story. The dead bodies are only part of the main story; the rest is to do with the relationships between the family members. With all that is going on, it becomes clear that each member of the family (2 daughters, 1 son, their uncle, mother and father) has their own breaking point, where what is going on has gone too far. The parents are far more at ease with the whole thing, willing to bury body after body and continually act as if nothing had happened, whereas the others are ok with it at first, but when one body more is expected they choose to change their tune.
I am actually really struggling to come up with things to talk about concerning the film, which highlights the films main negative comment. While everything is entertaining, and things move on a little more towards the end, in the middle it becomes a little predictable and repetitive. This makes the film drag a bit, but also gives you much of the same laughs all over again.
Acting wise, there was nothing that great on display from any of the cast. Fortunately there weren't really any bad performances from any of the main cast, some of the secondary cast who were just in the film for a few scenes did leave a little to be desired in some places, but the main cast were all just average. The only real exception for me was that of Song Kang-Ho. I think he was fortunate enough to be playing the most interesting character of the family, which helped make his acting more noticeable. Of them all, the viewer learns that his character has the most checkered past, and this is portrayed very through both his actions and his dishonest dealings.
I don't think I've done that great a job in selling this film. For some bizarre reason this has been a ridiculously hard review to write compared to every other one which I've written so far. Why this is the case, I don't know. It could be a reflection on the film in that there isn't a great deal to talk about, without giving away too much of the plot. Whatever it is, do not let it make you think that The Quiet Family is a film to pass over. It is not. The Quiet Family is a film dark in tone, very funny in places and good entertainment.
Audio & Subtitles
The Quiet Family only has a Korean Dolby Digital soundtrack option. I've heard better stereo tracks, that's for sure. On quite a few places the audio sounded a little muffled, and in other scenes it sounded as though it had a very tinny echo to it. So yeah, it could have been better. Not much else to say about it really.
The subtitles are of a similar standard. The good first though; the spelling and grammar are generally very good. There were a few mistakes in there, but basically it was all good. However, there are plenty of down points to counter this. Every 4 or 5 lines the last word or words of the sentence wouldn't be written, so you are left to extrapolate the remainder that you've missed. In other places the character on screen could be talking quite a bit, but only one subtitle line would be written, or something like that. Either the subtitles have been very much simplified, or not all that is said is written. Additionally, the timing is a little off at times. All in all things could have been better here.
This Modern release of The Quiet Family comes with a letterboxed transfer, and it is only slightly letterboxed. It is not letterboxed enough to get the whole picture on the screen using the 'zoom' feature of a widescreen TV. The print is a little grainy, and there are plenty of speckles here and there in the film. Detail levels aren't that great, as it definitely looks quite soft at all times. Colour levels are probably a little pale, as no colour is particularly vibrant.
DVD & Extras
Extras consist solely of the theatrical trailer. The DVD does come with a couple of film postcards though.
Being made about 5 years prior to A Tale Of Two Sisters, it is still possible to see in this film the similarities in Kim Ji-Wun's style, but also to see areas where he most certainly improved himself. There is good entertainment in here, some of which is probably hampered by the rather poor DVD.
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