Hee-yeon and her husband moves to the countryside together with their daughter and the husband’s mother, who is suffering from dementia. Their son, Jun-seo, disappeared five years ago and Hee-yeon is struggling with accepting the fact that he might be dead. One day, she finds a mute little girl in the forest nearby, and decides to take her home. Soon, the little girl starts speaking and claims that her name is the same as Hee-yeon’s daughter, and things start to make the little girl’s intentions questionable.
In many cultures, there’s been stories about spirits or creatures that will mimic the appearance or voice of our loved ones, in order to trick us. You might be familiar with one of the many variations of the creepy story where a child is hearing his/her mom calling out (usually from downstairs) but on the way for the mother’s calling voice, the child sees his/her real mother saying: “Don’t go. I heard it too!” (this has actually been made into several Creepypastas as well). Something being able to mimic someone we know is a terrifying concept, and long before I even knew anything about mimics at all, I actually had nightmares as a child where I’d hear my mother’s voice from two places at the same time (usually inside the house). Upon approaching my mother (from the voice I decided to choose) I always knew I’d chosen the wrong one, even though she looked exactly like my real mother. Creepy, right?
In “The Mimic” (Jang-san-beom), the plot is inspired by the myths about the Jangsan Tiger (nope, not the striped feline we’re all familiar with, but a creature with long white fur). The Jangsan Tiger is an urban legend, and this creature mimics a person in order to lure people away, and, of course, eat them. It’s supposed to lurk around the Jangsan mountain near the city of Busan, the area where Hee-yeon and her family moves to. In fact, the film’s Korean title “Jang-san-beom” literally means “Jangsan Tiger”.
“The Mimic” blends family drama with horror, and mixed with this folktale it actually works pretty well. The movie is beautiful to watch with the scenic images from the forest and mountain area, which adds to the atmosphere of the film. The movie warms up the mood for us with a man and his mistress dragging his wife out to the cave in the forest to kill her, only to confront the creature by hearing his wife’s voice from inside the cave after he’s murdered her. We do not see the creature/spirit at any time during this scene, and in fact it is clouded by mystery very much throughout the entire film, which makes it even more chilling. What you can’t see is almost always the scariest, isn’t it? It builds while still keeping you guessing.
“The Mimic” is a slow-burning supernatural horror film with gorgeous cinematography, and while it may not keep you at the edge of your seat the entire time due to the movie’s pacing, it definitely manages to build up a creepy atmosphere and tells a lore-filled tale pretty well.
Director: Jung Huh
Country & year: South Korea, 2017
Actors: Jung-ah Yum, Hyuk-kwon Park, Jin Heo, Rin-Ah Shin, Yu-sul Bang, Jun Hyeok Lee, Hae-yeon Kil, Yul Lee, Ju-won Lee