Review by Sean Boelman
Asian horror is often constructed very differently from American horror, allowing it to scare audiences in completely different ways. What Yoon Een-Kyoung’s Lingering lacks in story, it more than makes up for in atmosphere in frights, making this a chilling if slight supernatural flick that genre fans will want to check out.
The film follows a woman who begins to unravel a mystery when trying to drop off her younger sister at an old hotel run by her late mother’s friend. What that mystery is ultimately doesn’t matter, but it puts these characters in a spooky setting with sinister forces waiting to act upon them.
Many of the best moments are in the first and third act. Admittedly, Yoon pulls off the best scares early on, with two or three shots that are truly disturbing. The middle section does drag quite a bit, as it tries to throw in twists and turns to keep the audience guessing, but Yoon is able to stick the landing with an ending that is predictable yet offers satisfying resolution.
That said, there are a lot of things that feel like they are missing from the movie, the chief of which is something to say. The obvious angle to this story involves grief and how the two process the loss of their mother, but this is really only addressed in the third act and through the occasional bit of expositional dialogue.
It also would have been nice to see more of an investment in the relationship between the two sisters. For most of the movie, they function separately. Either scary stuff is happening to the younger sister, or the protagonist is being haunted as she tries to solve the mystery. Had they come together a bit more frequently, the film could have had a greater emotional impact.
Park Ji-Young is a highlight in the movie, as the hotel-owning friend of her mother, coming off as eerily distant, but the rest of the cast is somewhat underwhelming. Lead actress Lee Se-yeong isn’t given a whole lot to do but act startled every once in a while, and child actress Park So-yi is even less utilized.
Also frustrating is the fact that Yoon doesn’t seem to know what to do with the film’s disturbing imagery. There are a few messed-up shots and a creepy location, but the movie largely feels too restrained. Those really terrifying early scenes will keep viewers on their toes, but not enough so to sustain the whole film.
Lingering has its fair share of issues, many of which come down to the script. Still, it offers a solid handful of spine-tingling moments, so it will be a decent enough watch for hardcore horror fans.
Lingering streams on Shudder beginning November 12.
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