Princess Aurora

Princess Aurora


Reviewed by: Emma Slawinski

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” goes the saying; how true, and, looking at the success and cult status of Tarantino’s Kill Bill Parts 1&2, and Chan-wook Park’s Lady Vengeance, how lucrative. Given how readily we lap up these femmes fatales, it’s no surprise they keep cropping up. Director Eun-jin Bang was undoubtedly aware of the high standard set by the aforementioned movies when she dreamed up her own crazy lady story, and she musters an excellent opening. Shots of a car rolling through night-time Seoul and a big, eye-catching colour palette that bring to mind Kieslowski; an expansive and emotional soundtrack; and - the clincher - an unexpected, hasty and brutal murder. The film gets its hook in within the first 10 minutes, but reeling in the audience fully proves more difficult.

The plot is the essence of simplicity. A woman (Eom Jeong-hwa) goes on a highly imaginative, yet seemingly random, killing spree. At each murder scene, she leaves her mark – a sticker bearing the cartoon character, Princess Aurora. Meanwhile, the classic detective combo of wise veteran (Mun Seong-kun) and impetuous rookie is hot on her heels, with the old-timer quickly realising he knows more about the murders than he’d like.

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Bang has wrapped up the story in some very pretty packaging. The pulpy, graphic, almost two-dimensional feel is in its own way captivating, and though the characters, too, have a lack of depth, that's not too much of a problem, at least for the first hour. The film is stylish, flecked with gallows humour, and there’s enough intrigue for it to zip along initially. Unfortunately, as a macabre backstory is revealed, the absence of any emotional weight is sorely felt, and what should be a catalyst for our sympathy and horror is reduced to a mere fact. Then our ice-cool killer queen starts to unravel, and is squished back into type according to that old horror code: ovaries = over-excitable. Sadly, that’s about as much character development as we get.

Great expectations placed firmly to one side, I hoped it was about to wind down, but Princess Aurora seems to be just warming up: time for a crescendo into an embarrassing, hysterical, climax. The final straw comes in the form of plain old lazy, clumsy storytelling, as the ‘explainers’ for the brutal murders – the motives were barely touched on previously - are played in flashback. Clunk, clunk, clunk.

The biggest obstacle for Princess Aurora is that it will suffer inevitable comparisons with Lady Vengeance, a far superior film on every level. Next to Lee Yeong-ae’s terrifying yet sympathetic, visceral performance in the starring role, here Eom Jeong-hwa’s wronged mother looks like a paper doll pasted into a horror film set. It’s not all her fault, the writing and direction are as much to blame. After such a promising start, the disappointment is all the greater.

Reviewed on: 25 Jan 2009
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A wronged mother goes on an imaginative killing spree and plays cat-and-mouse with the detectives.
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Director: Bang Eun-jin

Writer: Bang Eun-jin, Seo Min-hui

Starring: Jeong-hwa Eom, Seong-kun Mun, Jong-won Choi, Yeong Hyeon, Eun-pyo Jeong

Year: 2005

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: South Korea


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