May-hem month seems to be leaning towards Asia Extreme movies so far and I for one am here for it. While this week’s pick is nowhere near as bat shit crazy as the last, it’s still pretty out there in terms of premise and delivery. There’s a strong moral to the movie too which I’ll address but for now, my thoughts.
The investigation following a sales manager brutally killing his entire family leads to a track of mystery and tragedy in an overwhelmed work team at Seul.
Lee Mi-Rye (Ko Asung) is a hard-working intern hoping to be made permanent in a big sales firm in Seoul, South Korea. As with so many big companies, she’s treated like a pack-horse and given very little recognition in return, which I’ll go into in just a moment. First I should mention that the film begins with Mr Kim, an employee at the same firm. As the movie opens we witness Kim return home from work, eat a nice meal and then slaughter his entire family, child and all, with a hammer. What’s wrong with After Eight Mints is what I want to know?
Back at the office, the police are going through the staff one by one trying to work out a) why this happened and b) where Kim is now he’s at large. It soon becomes apparent to Detective Jong-Hoon (Sung-woong Park) that the staff are all hiding something.
Back to Mi-Rye. As soon as the police turn up, Mi-Rye is briefed by her colleagues to pretend that she didn’t know Kim very well. She plays along at first because she’s eager to please. However, Jong-Hoon soon sees through her and learns that actually she was quite close to him. Mi-Rye explains that he was the only person nice to her when she started.
The rest of her colleagues are absolute bastards to her actually and this only gets worse when their big boss Kim Sang-Gyu (Eui-sung Kim) hires a second intern. This pits the girls against each other and has Mi-Rye’s colleagues comparing her unfavourably to the new girl.
Meanwhile, the cops work out via CCTV that after the murders, Kim returned to the office and was not seen leaving. This suggests he’s still in the building! EEEK. This theory is further reinforced by the fact that Kim (and Mi-Rye’s) colleagues start to turn up dead in wonderfully gruesome ways.
All this is set against the backdrop of an overworked and under-valued work force who are being worked to the bone by their overbearing and demanding boss. Who reams them out in front of everyone else in the department which is probably the scariest thing about this thriller/horror – and my worst nightmare.
Will we find out what pushed Kim over the edge? What are the others hiding? And is Mi-Rye okay, hun?
While I want to do a decent job of reviewing this I don’t want to give away every nuance of the plot. It is quite hard to keep a track of and the end is quite ambiguous, although AWESOME.
Office was actually really compelling. I was all in from the get go, even though it does have a habit of flipping you backwards into a flashback without much fanfare. A couple of times, even though I was concentrating I had to rewind to understand a scene. I’m not afraid to admit that I also found a Reddit forum discussing the film and read that cover to cover to help me understand a couple of points.
The performances were good, the set up is great and there’s something so relateable about the setting of an office, since I personally spend so much time in one. As Mi-Rye learns what her colleagues really think of her, via the old-school medium of hiding behind pillars and eavesdropping, I could feel her distress and paranoia bubbling over.
Korean cinema is my favourite and although this doesn’t have the impact of Old Boy or Memories of Murder (to name but a few shit hot examples), it’s not bad at all. I like its creepy tone and enjoyed unraveling the plot. I also really found myself rooting for Mi-Rye who has the look of a rabbit caught in headlights for most of the film.
And the aforementioned moral of the story – and potential *Spoiler* – be nicer to your interns, fuckers.