GONJIAM: HAUNTED ASYLUM is the latest horror film from Beom-sik Jeong and is a terrifying found-footage film that not only delivers on scares but maintains an unsettling atmosphere throughout. The film stars Seung-Wook Lee, Ye-Won Mun, Ji-Hyun Park (Meat), Sung-Hoon Park (Falsify), and Ha-Joon Wi (Something in the Rain).
Touted as one of the “7 freakiest places on the planet” by CNN, a horror web series crew decide to travel to the abandoned asylum for a live broadcast in hopes of reaching one million views and profiting off the advertising. Gonjiam, which is a real-life abandoned hospital, has been drenched in legends and stories from the people who have visited, most recently two teenagers who had disappeared shortly after their video was uploaded. Not thinking anything of it, this new crew descends upon Gonjiam in the dead of night to live stream their experience and to open the one room that has never been open – room 402. Hoping to attract viewers, they set up elaborate scares; however, the deeper into the building they go, the more they begin to experience the unexplainable, resulting in the horrifying realization that the legends have always been true.
GONJIAM was a film I had been looking forward to seeing ever since it was announced as part of the line up for the Fantasia Film Festival. Though I didn’t get to see it at that time, I was excited when I found out that it was being released on home video, giving me the chance to finally see it in all its glory. I’ll admit, I like a good found-footage film and GONJIAM most certainly did not disappoint. A lot of people have been comparing this film to that of Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz’s 2011 found-footage horror film, Grave Encounters, and they aren’t far off with that assessment as both take place in an abandoned mental hospital infamous for being haunted. As a massive fan of Grave Encounters, I wasn’t annoyed that GONJIAM followed in the same footsteps because I believe there is room for both.
What I really enjoyed about GONJIAM, aside from the scares, is that we actually get to know these characters a bit before the horror descends upon them. It allows the viewer the opportunity to care for the characters and to see them outside of their web series persona. I found myself being drawn to the character of Charlotte, played by Ye-Won Mun, as she brazenly declared her fearlessness by stating that she has been to two of the other “freakiest places on the planet”. I loved watching her transformation from the start of the film, as a confident woman without fear, to a terrified woman hoping to survive the evil that encompasses the asylum.
My favorite aspect of GONJIAM has to be the subtlety used in preparing the scares. Sure, a lot of them I was able to see coming, but I appreciated how the director didn’t rely on musical cues to formulate the scare. There are certain horror tropes that he does fall back on, but I’ve come to expect that from most horror films so I can’t really fault him too much for that. As for the asylum itself, it looks like a terrifying place without all the paranormal activity. Upon further research, I learned that Gonjiam Asylum actually does exist and is considered to be one of Korea’s most haunted locations*. Having gone to Danvers State Hospital during the day many years ago, and leaving shortly thereafter due to strange occurrences, I can only imagine what it must have been like to visit and film in and around Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital at night.
All in all, I really enjoyed GONJIAM: HAUNTED ASYLUM. Though the film isn’t creating anything new with its found-footage style and similarity to Grave Encounters, it still managed to keep me on edge with its suspense and terror. Obviously I don’t want to spoil anything, but I also appreciated how the ending played out without having to rely on a “happy ending” to appease the masses. If you are a fan of found-footage, or anything related to paranormal activity, especially in regards to real life haunted locations, than I would highly recommend picking up a copy of GONJIAM: HAUNTED ASYLUM.
GONJIAM: HAUNTED ASYLUM is now available to own on Digital, Blu-ray Combo Pack & DVD