Published On: Sun, Mar 1st, 2020

Great Horror Films Nobody Watches: The Red Shoes

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This film, directed by Kim Yong-gyun and released by Sovik Venture Capital and DCG Plus, stars Kim Hye-su (Sun-jae), Park Yeon-ah (Tae-su), Kim Sung-su (In-cheol), Goo Soo-hee (Kim Mi-hee) and Lee Eol (Sung-joon).

What with all the incredible horror films coming from the far east, it might seem strange that the one film on this list from this rich vein of Asian horror would be The Red Shoes (2005), a Korean film. Not even one Japanese (J-horror) film to fill in the gap.

Great Horror Films Nobody Watches: The Red Shoes

To tell the truth, there is so much J-Horror reaching the mainstream of American culture (mostly through remakes) that the best of Japanese horror films are now fully woven into the American mainstream. Ring (1998), Dark Water (2002) and The Grudge (2003) have all been translated into Hollywood hits and even the untouchable Audition (1999) is now well known in the English-speaking world. So for a series of articles about lesser-known horror films, what could be better than the sharp and cutting chills of this Korean take on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, The Red Shoes.

From Gray Life to Pretty In Pink

The Red Shoes stars Kim Hye-su in a tour de force performance as Sun-jae, a mousey eye-doctor who comes home one day to discover not only that her husband is having an affair, but (unforgivably) his mistress is committing the dirty deed while wearing Sun-jae’s shoes! Before long, Sun-jae and her daughter, Tae-su (Park Yeon-ah), are living in a small apartment and trying to put their lives back together. Sun-jae finds life difficult and struggles to cope until, while riding on the subway one night, she sees an attractive pair of pink shoes sitting unclaimed in the passageway.

The shoe-obsessed doctor picks them up and discovers her life immediately changed: she feels more attractive with the shoes on her feet, but her daughter covets them as well and a power-struggle develops between mother and daughter over the fancy footwear. But neither of them know (or seem to care) that the last girl who wore the shoes ended up lying dead with her feet amputated. After her friend steals the shoes and ends up dying in an unpleasant manner, Sun-jae and her new boyfriend In-cheol (Kim Sung-su) try to research the deadly history of the shoes. But In-cheol finds out more about Sun-jae’s past than he bargained for…

When first watching The Red Shoes, it doesn’t take long to notice that the titular footwear isn’t red at all, but pink. One can only assume that the title doesn’t really pertain to the color of the shoes but to the color of the blood that flows from the victims who choose to wear them. Indeed, one of the artistic boons of the film is the washed-out color scheme that only allows color into the frame when blood begins to flow.

The red of the blood and the pink of the shoes are all that stand out in the otherwise gray world of Sun-jae. Though she continues onward, never wavering in her attempt to make a new and independent life with her young daughter, even her cherished and impressive collection of shoes pales in comparison to the pink pumps she finds on the subway. They shine like pearls at the bottom of the murky ocean and they bring out the sex appeal of any woman whose feet they choose to encase. But what is it that causes Sun-jae, her daughter and her best friend to fight over the shoes and who will be alive when the fight is finally over?

A Riveting Performance

The story is not the easiest to follow: flashbacks to the shoes’ history (all these films have a complicated backstory) interrupt the flow and one is never sure if we’re watching history, reality or fantasy (such as the dream sequence where Sun-jae tries to save Tae-su from falling off a building, only to be left holding her severed feet while the rest of the girl plummets). But through it all, the viewer remains with the film through the powerful performance of Kim Hye-su, a former TV actress who took Korea by storm with performances as strong as this one. Are we literally looking at the same woman who began the film as a soft-spoken wallflower and ends it by murderously chasing a terrified child nearly into the path of an on-coming subway train?

We feel for Sun-jae when she’s being pushed around by her husband and her bratty daughter (“You have ugly feet” Tae-su hilariously yells when her mother won’t give up the shoes), worry with her when Tae-su seemingly disappears from in front of her on her way to her dance class, and are spooked when Sun-jae finally cracks, screaming at her daughter about the sudden appearance of a shoe which, we later learn, was used as a murder weapon. And boy, can this woman scream! The scream that Sun-jae emits to end the film is the most realistic I’ve ever seen in a horror film. It literally makes the hair stand up.

No Hope For The Well-Shod Woman

Along with the convoluted backstory (involving three women who coveted the shoes, one of which – believe it or not – is a hunchback) The Red Shoes also shares another Asian horror film trend: the characters never fully vanquish the ghosts of the past. In Ring, finding Sadako’s corpse doesn’t break the curse, in Carved (2007), the slit-mouthed woman lives to kill another day, and The Red Shoes gives us one last jolt as well.

Spoilers ahead! It turns out that Sun-jae murdered not only her husband, her best friend and her new boyfriend but also the schoolgirl from the pre-credit sequence (which makes no sense as Sun-jae hadn’t yet found the shoes at that point). She seems to come to her senses before she can bring herself to murder Tae-su, but mother and daughter won’t be living happily ever after any time soon, if what comes to haunt Sun-jae in the subway has any say in the matter. Spoilers End.

About the Author

- I am an internet marketing expert with an experience of 8 years.My hobbies are SEO,Content services and reading ebooks.I am founder of SRJ News andTech Preview.

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