It's no coincidence my next movie recap would be Chilling Romance (aka Spellbound), starring my cute Lee Min-ki and the gorgeous Son Ye-jin. If my love for Cha Tae-hyun is subconscious, my love for Min-ki is definitely indisputable. But, a word of caution to potential viewers though, the "ghost" element in this movie is nothing like in "Hello Ghost". Chilling Romance is everything its title suggests - it's pretty creepy but the romance is oh-so-cute. After the disappointment that was Quick, Min-ki is adorable again here. And while I never saw Son's previous masterpieces, she is gorgeous in a down-to-earth kind of way here.
There will be spoilers here, since I do not think it'll take away the fun of watching the movie, especially since I sort of guessed their "big reveal" at the end. It's nothing mind-blowing, but it provides the necessary explanation to our heroine's predicament at the beginning of the story.
The story begins from Ma Jo-goo's (Lee Min-ki) point of view - he's a small time street magician looking for a big break. A magician needs a special definitive performance to attract crowds and he has yet to find one. He spots Kang Yeo-ri (Son Ye-jin) in the crowd during one of his performances one day and he's curious about her because she doesn't smile. At all. Looking like she's really troubled.
He decides to follow this strange lady and as he watches her from afar walking through a back-alley, he has a eureka moment.
She reminds him of a ghost crawling out from a window, so he plans to make his magic show about her, or about ghosts to be exact. He gathers up his courage to approach her and from that moment onwards, they are a team.
Fast forward to the present, a more polished looking Jo-goo summons a ghost from a closet (Gah! He looks delicious in guy-liners!)...and asks the ghost what brings it here.
The ghost speaks in a broken radio kind of voice, claiming that its killer is in the crowd.
It points to a lady in the crowd, who runs in fear. The ghost swoops down on her and a moment later, we see a body being wrapped in a black cloak midair on the stage.
Joo-goo threatens the ghost with an axe (really!? ) and the body falls on the stage, the closet door closes. But when he unveils the cloak, there's no one there. Instead the missing lady turns up, a little light headed, when he unveils a black cloak previously covering the closet.
He wraps up the show by advising everyone to apologize sincerely if they have to, for sincerity is the key for forgiveness. The crowd is wowed, and on their feet.
After the show, we see Yeo-ri emerging from a secret compartment on the floor on the stage all dressed in black, presumably she's the black hooded figure aka ghost. Jo-goo invites her for a staff gathering but she lies that she's got a prior engagement. It's not news to the staff, since she's rejected every invitation for the past 1 year they've been working together.
Back in her house, Yeo-ri talks to her mum on the phone. It's her birthday, and she's celebrating alone, eating cake with only a teddy bear as company. Mum and her sister are somewhere overseas, and suddenly mum is overcome with emotion and apologizes for leaving her on her own. Yeo-ri tries to console mum, assuring her she's fine and have plenty of friends.
Yeo-ri sleeps in a tent built in her living room, and wakes up in the night when she hears noises. She peers out from the tent and something in the dark scares her so she promptly retreats back into her tent. Suddenly the zips on her tent unzips itself and she finds two unwanted guests popping out of nowhere in the tent! Jeez.
The next morning, Yeo-ri reports a hit and run case on the phone, after staring at the site of an accident.
So by now, we know that Yeo-ri is cursed with the ability to see ghosts and is often visited by uninvited guests in the night. What a creepy gift.
At work, Jo-goo tries to make her attend a staff's gathering again, shooting down every feeble excuse she comes up with. Bottom line, if it isn't her parents' funeral, she'd better show up. Yikes, that's pretty mean. Anyway, she still insists on not going, claiming she has bad drinking manners. Jo-goo is fine with everything she throws at him, so she conceded in the end and he turns away with a smile. LOL. So cute.
So to the gathering she goes, and true to her words, she gets drunk in no time. A drunk Yeo-ri is pretty darn cute, and totally opposite of her usual meek self. She pretty much lashes out at Jo-goo for his charmed life and tears two holes off his shirt where his urm...chest is. LOL. To his credit, Jo-goo is neither mad nor angry, having been issued a prior warning...just embarassed as he tries to cover his exposed chest.
She wakes up the next day and recoils in embarassment, having recalled her actions. Meanwhile, Jo-goo complains about Yeo-ri to his girlfriend, whom he's sending to the airport. Girlfriend senses that there is more to his interest than just anger, but says nothing.
Yeo-ri calls Jo-goo, attempting to apologize but midway through the conversation she feels a chilly breeze...she stares at a picture of the woods when suddenly a picture frames falls and breaks. When she turns back to the picture, a creepy long-haired ghost stares right back at her. She breathes out the name "Joo-hee ah..." (Jeez...it's really creepy to screencap even though this is my second watch).
Jo-goo finds himself at her door, having unsuccessfully tried to get other staff to check on her. She entertains him with her leftover cake and he makes small talk about her tent and her family. He even tries to rationalize her behaviour and attempts to get her to open up herself more, but meets with little success.
Finally, he surrenders and is about to leave when he sees a little boy squatting in her yard. Yeo-ri panics and tries to usher him away, but he goes looking for the boy when he disappears thinking the boy is playing hide-and-seek. He scares the boy (LOL) and the kid runs away at inhuman speed, but he only looks in awe at Yeo-ri, blissfully unaware of what he just saw. LOL.
Yeo-ri calls up her friend, Min Jeong (Kim Hyeon-sook) and talks about Jo-goo's visit coyly. Min-jeong tells her to seduce him but Yeo-ri hangs up on her after declaring it's impossible. Hihi. She's already interested.
That night, Jo-goo freaks out after finding the same little boy in his house and worse, on his back! He calls up Yeo-ri and hides in a carton box waiting for her. He's shaking, due to the cold and fear, when Yeo-ri finds him. After feeding him some soju, she tells him the truth and goes into the house looking for the boy. Jo-goo tags along, more afraid at being alone. LOL.
They scour the house, Yeo-ri obviously more adept at it than the timid Jo-goo. They find his miniature toycars all overturned and look some more, Jo-goo hilariously looking into his toilet bowl as well. LOL. In the midst of their search, Yeo-ri finds his collection of movies, amazed that they're all rom-coms. He doesn't deny, affirming his preference for happy endings. She doesn't share his preference, and he asks if she prefers those bloody and scary movies instead. She replies that her entire life is a creepy movie. True!
They find nothing, which is queer because Yeo-ri knows from experience that 'they' don't leave that easily, especially since he carried him on his back....which is exactly where they find the boy. On his freaking back!! Only this time, Yeo-ri reaches over to hold his hand.
A moment later, Jo-goo and Yeo-ri are at a site of a car wreck, where they found a survivor - the mother of the boy. And the boy's body. T.T Jo-goo looks over at Yeo-ri, understanding now what her life must have been.
In the day, the car is fished out from the ravines and the boy bows in gratitude at them before vanishing before their eyes.
Yeo-ri tells Jo-goo how she starts seeing ghost since an accident during her high school days, when she almost died. The paramedic had opted to resuscitate her first, instead of her friend, Joo-hee and that might have changed the outcome of the accident. She lived and Joo-hee died.
And since then, Joo-hee had started haunting her and disturbing all her friends and family... which explains why her family migrated without her and why she avoids making friends. She believes it is Joo-hee's intention to isolate her from everyone, so she's been like a living ghost. Jo-goo asks why the paramedic saved her first, Yeo-ri did asked and was told that she emitted some sort of light when he found them.
Yeo-ri shouts aloud, claiming she's still happy and blissful despite Joo-hee's attempt to do otherwise. Jo-goo also shouts - telling Joo-hee off for being mean and tells her to remain dead. Oh-uh. Yeo-ri worries that he might have provoked Joo-hee, the notion of which obviously never occured to Jo-goo who freaks out a little at the thought. LOL.
Yeo-ri calls Min-jeong, whom we now know is just a phonefriend. Sigh it's that sad. Anyway, Min-jeong thinks Jo-goo is interested in Yeo-ri and offers to rope in her scriptwriter friend, Yoo Jin (Lee Mi-do) who's an expert on love for consultation.
The next day, Jo-goo bumps into Yeo-ri with a surly-looking man in a cafe . Apparently, he's a guy from a marriage agency. Mum tried to get her a match as a birthday gift. Jo-goo gets her off the hook by parading as her, nope, not boyfriend.....but an ex army buddy - implying she's er ahem a guy. LOL.
The run off together to eat elsewhere, and Jo-goo takes it upon himself to introduce her a better match. Are you sure you wanna do that?? Hhihi. Anyway, Yeo-ri's only criteria is that the guy has to be brave! And so Jo-goo introduces her to a bodyguard for the president with a combined level 12 in various martial arts.
With such an outstanding resume, plus a pretty good-looking face, Yeo-ri responds favouribly to the guy only to have a sulky Jo-goo playing party pooper now and then. LOL. Jealous and cute. As the night goes on, it's clear that both gentlemen are charmed by her. Jo-goo looks at her laughing face tenderly while his friend angles for a second date, declaring himself ready to be her protector from now on.
The date ends well and date guy goes to get his car. Only he meets with her creepy friend in the elevator and the elevator freefalls. Yeo-ri gets uneasy as the wait becomes unnaturally long and runs to the carpark to find her date puking his guts out. When she tries to approach him, he tells her in no uncertain terms to stay the hell away from him. So much for bravery. Jo-goo appears moments later to find her in tears.
They go for a baseball workout, where she unleashes her inner frustrations. When she gets everything out of her system, she tells him to go ahead. Only, he refuses. Why hit a flying ball, just let it fly, so he says. And we quickly learn why. He's hopelessly poor, with nary a hit in all his tries. LOL.
They stop for a hot drink, sitting on a swing, where the pleasant ambience leads to him catching her with a kiss. But she struggles and slaps him away. While he hangs his head, chastised, she grabs his shirt and tears off the front and then kisses him senseless. LOL. Okay by now we know it's all in his imagination, and he laughs out loud at his own train of thoughts. Naughty naughty. He deflects when she asks about it, but the atmosphere is already pretty awkward.
Later that night, in her ritual nightly phone conference with her friends, she admitted she had wanted to kiss him then. Her friends think it's because she's gone too long without -her last kiss was in middle school. Yoo-jin educates her on the types of kissing - 1. Hamburger 2. Sliding 3. Air-clinging 4. Candy 5. Wrestling. Wow. I'm educated as well. All this while, I only knew that kisses are divided into french or non french. LOL.
Jo-goo calls Yeo-ri out for a drink and they get drunk amiably. He shares his insight with her - the heroine in a horror movie never falls in love. Yeo-ri chids him for being idiotic - if the heroine falls in love, it would be a romantic movie, not a horror movie. How can the movie be scary if the heroine falls in love, she'd have someone by her side so it wouldn't be as scary. Nice meta here. :) Anyway, they had a pleasant "drinking date" which predictably ends with her tearing apart his shirt drunkenly again. LOL. And what's funnier, is he actually brought a spare this time.
He sends her home, but she doesn't want to go home. So they leave...but we see a pair of feet outside her home as the taxi drives away...*Gulps.
He deposited her on his bed, omo really? and they fall into a drunken sleep. But in the middle of the night, water drips on his face and he opens his eyes and stares in fear at Joo-hee's apparition. Yeo-ri shields his eyes and whispers pleadingly at him to bear with it for a while. Brrr.....
Later, Yeo-ri tries to cheer up a still-shaken Jo-goo. Her uneasiness is so sad, as she tries to hold onto possibly her only real life friend. Her jokes fall a little flat, so she finally gives him a hug...but when she feels him responding, she withdraws quickly. He asks for a way to sleep peacefully. As an answer, we see that they sleep together in a tent built in his house....which is how his girlfriend finds them the next morning! Drats. I forgot about her too.
She didn't lose her temper and make a scene. But in her not so subtle way, makes Yeo-ri a sorry figure. Ouch. Jo-goo is just an ordinary man, but it would take an extraordinary man to date Yeo-ri. If she was Yeo-ri, faced with what Yeo-ri faced, she'd probably commit suicide. Perhaps it's the first time someone actually says it to her face what a miserable life she led, that her defenses crack a little and she excuses herself quickly.
That night, her defenses crumbles to the ground as she confides to her phonefriends about how lonely and frightened she is. The girls cry together. Sob sob. This is actually a pretty touching scene, given the absurd circumstances of their friendship.
On the other hand, Jo-goo's girlfriend knows that Jo-goo likes Yeo-ri but she tries to rationalize with him that she would be the better choice. Only 1% of the population actually has those heartthumping romances. She doesn't push it and wishes him luck. However, she astutely points out that he wasn't exactly staying away from Yeo-ri because of her. In truth, he's afraid. Sigh. Yeah I know. Getting haunted by a ghost isn't a very inviting prospect of a relationship, no matter how much you like her.
Yeo-ri stops coming to work and Jo-goo broods. Our hero has some soul searching to do. And he does, hiding in the secret compartment. LOL. While his hyung tries to convince him it's a bad idea, Jo-goo misses Yeo-ri in a bad way.
Thank god for girlfriends. Min-jeong and Yoo-jin shows up unannounced at Yeo-ri's house in support. GO girls!
They are having a BBQ party when Jo-goo finally overcomes his inner misgivings and musters the courage to call. He tells her he misses her and asks to meet her but she replies she has guests. Confused, Jo-goo turns to his hyung for advice, thinking she's rejecting him.LOL. Min-jeong grabs her phone and tells Jo-goo they'll meet up in a while, mimicking Yeo-ri's voice. LOL.
Yeo-ri waits for Jo-goo at the street where they first met, but freaks out at the sight of Joo-hee in the crowd. She stumbles onto the magician's stage, with hands appearing all over her body, scaring the shit out of her and everyone in the crowd.
Jo-goo appears from nowhere and diffuses the situation with his magic card tricks. It's so sweet and the crowd oohs and ahhs thinking it's part of the magic. Yeo-ri looks at Jo-goo gratefully, knowing how scared he is. And in truth, behind his very sweet smile, his hands are actually trembling. Aww...
Yeo-ri lays down the rules before they start dating. He's to buy the best insurance policies and he can never blame her in future if he ever backs out. For him, it's more normal stuffs - they will switch to the couples line and she has to program him as her no.1 speed dial number. But he wants none of the numerous annniversaries girls are so fond of - only conceding to celebrating birthdays. Hah.
There is something Yeo-ri wants to do badly once she has a boyfriend and it is to explore her dad's basement. What? LOL. Jo-goo shares the same incredulous sentiment but reluctantly goes in with her. He finds an old cdplayer and invites her for a dance. They share some lovey-dovey moments dancing before he leans for a kiss. But suddenly the lights are out and the music stopped. Oh dear! The closet creaks open slowly and poof! A family of bats come flying out. Phew....
They laugh over it and moments later, they are sipping hot drinks in her yard. He tries to ask what she wants to do most now that they're dating but her responses are meh to all his suggestions. Turns out our lady knows what she wants after all - sexy fun times it is. Rawr. Jo-goo follows her like a meek puppy and they spend the night in her tent.
They bid each other goodbye the next morning, but Joo-hee watches ominously from the second floor. Gulps. I have a bad feeling about this.
Joo-goo calls his hyung from the taxi, gloating about being in love when an unmanned tractor rams into the taxi. He crawls out unharmed only to have an overhead signboard falling around him. Whoah. He's gonna need those insurance.
The performance goes as scripted until the part where the ghost is supposed to point to its killer. It points at Yeo-ri and swoops in for her, dragging her into the closet. Jo-goo panics and opens the closet only to find Yeo-ri drowning in a tank. He reaches for his axe but just as he is about to strike, he's lifted high up in the air. Whie Yeo-ri watches, he's dropped just as suddenly on the stage and loses consciousness, alarming the audience and the staff.
The closet closes and in the water, Yeo-ri removes the necklace and we learn the final piece of the puzzle. As Yeo-ri puts the necklace on Joo-hee, we learn that right before the accident, Yeo-ri had borrowed the necklace from Joo-hee, promising to return it right after she snaps a photograph of it. But that never happened because their bus plunged into a river from an overhead bridge. And it was the light reflected by the necklace that prompted the paramedic to save Yeo-ri first. With the deed finally completed, the closet opens and Yeo-ri crashes out.
At the hospital, thanks to Jo-goo's hyung, we have to endure a round of noble idiocy as Yeo-ri makes up her mind to leave for Jo-goo's safety. Why? I thought Joo-hee's issue was resolved! Anyway, she decides to head for Norway to visit her family before making other plans.
Jo-goo wakes up to find Yeo-ri missing. His hyung caves after being offered double salary and Jo-goo rushes to the airport. He finds her but she remains adamant that they break up.
As she walks into the boarding hall, he tries again, by calling her on the phone...
JG: That day, I almost died. Do you know how much of a miracle it is that I am now here, alive? And to be honest, it's really scary dating you. When I'm alone I keep imagining that something is crawling on my back...when I'm lying down, I keep imagining someone staring down at me...I'm so uneasy and frightened I can't even sleep well. Do you know how tiring that is? I will never have a good night sleep for the rest of my life...but......what about you? I'm already like this, so what would happen to you? When I think about how alone you are, I'd rather carry another ghost on my back. Remember what I said about the heroine of a horror movie? They never fall in love because it's only when they are alone that the movie would be even scarier. When I think of how scared you might be, my heart hurts so bad. I think I've fallen in love with you...come back...please?
Still, she hangs up and boards the plane, even though her tears fall for him. In the plane, the air stewardess tries to speak to a long haired girl....which turns out to be Joo-hee. Holly cow. The plane shakes and makes a detour back to Korea.
Jo-goo who is trying to cancel his couple phone service gets excited when he learns that the plane has landed again. He waits for Yeo-ri who tries to sneak out unnoticed. No way he's letting her go this time. Yeo-ri finally concedes that she loves him too, but their obstacle hasn't changed. Joo-hee is still determine to haunt them. He accepts that, thinking that love is a tough business after all. They kiss and make up.
The end. There is a cute epilogue where Jo-goo's hyung tries to woo Joo-hee. LOL. Go figure. And Yeo-ri's girlfriends witnessing her kiss.
I left out lots of details, so I'm sure you'd still find the watch enjoyable. I wanted it to be a mini-recap but I think it came out more like a full recap instead. Sorry yeah. Some of the funny bits comes in the form of conversations and little moments which I may not have included.
I love how they actually bonded in spite of the creepy circumstances, so I could actually tell that they are falling in love with each other instead of like, two people undergoing a harrowing experience and come out somehow in love with each other. And both Min ki and Ye jin is love, nailing their characters and I like their chemistry with each other. I didn't feel the age gap at all. The romance is awkward and sweet, just like their characters but I understand and appreciate how the creepy elements work in their favour as well. The director really made the scary scenes err...scary that at times I was positively jumpy. Helps that I'm not watching alone though. And the scary bits are often quickly offset by our protagonists' cuteness. I guess it's true after all - if the heroine of a horror movie falls in love, it winds down the horror factor.
The dialogue is pretty amusing too but the plot, despite the mash-up elements is pretty straightforward. The reason for Joo-hee to haunt Yeo-ri feels a little juvenile - she didn't return her necklace. That was it? But as the creepy villain, I have no complains. Gawd knows the number of times I jumped when she appeared onscreen.
I actually enjoyed this more than "Hello Ghost" despite the weaker plot because it wasn't boring. The pace felt faster and I was alternately enamoured by the couple's cuteness and hiding under my blankets when the creepy moments came.
Rating: 9/10 on my enjoyment scale.