Blood Rain was introduced at the Brisbane International Film Festival as a cross-genre film, and it turned out to be an accurate assessment. A little bit period film, a little bit classic detective thriller, a little bit slasher film, a little bit rock and roll. Okay, not so much with the rock and roll (unless you count the numerous and nasty ways people die), but this mix bag of genres is far from confused, taking features from each and making in the combination something unique.
Against a micro-backdrop of well constructed sets – all human level with none of the sweeping, panoramic extablishing shots normally typical of period films – this film is first and foremost entertainment, but entertainment with a strong undertow of deeper drama. Yes, Won-gyu (Cha-Seung Won) seems your fairly typical young genius detective, smart enough to be running the show from the minute he sets foot on the small paper-making island community; but it’s best not to let the mores of the detective genre lead you too much astray. Blood Rain sets itself up for a classic who-dunnit, but soon enough is adding themes of social inequality, corruption and the darker side of the mass mentality into the mix; things much more typical to a good period drama than either a murder mystery or a horror film.
The mystery itself is clever enough, and the creeping-around-in-the-dark, unknown killer tension very well managed, but it is the people who are ultimately the focus. Won-gyu is solid and interesting, and it’s almost saddening to watch him struggle against something that is not turning out in the logical, text-book way his venerable father taught him to expect. Racing the clock and matching wits with a seemingly unstoppable adversary is one of the key ingredients of a any good thriller, and Won is very convincing in his role. Playing off against him, and in my opinion stealing almost every scene, Park Young-woo as In-kwon, the son of the resident patriarch, balances brilliantly on an is-he-isn’t-he fenceline, managing just the right amount of innocence and menace.
Of course, there’s no holding back on the horror parts either, despite the focus on people and the darker aspects of human psychology which make it a less than typical horror film. There are a good half dozen (at least) moments of extreme ick. Be warned; as the anticipated body count starts to tally up, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. But sit through those, and you’ll get what you came for, a good, solid and surprisingly non-typical typical mystery murder thriller.