Rating: 3 out of 5
For a film that keeps harping on plagiarism, Bestseller sure doesn’t mind borrowing liberally from a host of clichés. Part standard Korean haunted house fare and part murder mystery; this new Jeong-ho Lee helmed thriller is a tale of two schizophrenic halves, each following familiar genre tropes.
It all starts out with Baek Heui-su (Uhm Jung-hwa), one of Seoul’s most prolific bestselling authors, being accused of plagiarising her latest work from a writing contest entry that she juried.
With reputation in tatters and shunned by literary community, her editor convinces the depressed writer to rent out a secluded villa in a small town in order to begin working on her comeback novel. The villa just so happens to also be a former orphanage, so of course it’s probably inhabited by a ghost of some kind.
Already a chain-smoking bundle of nerves and suffering from chronic writer’s block, Baek gets even more freaked out when her young daughter Yeon-heui (Park Sa-rang) begins having conversations with an invisible new friend. However as any writer knows, an impending deadline is much scarier than ghosts could ever be, so Baek uses her daughter’s stories as inspiration instead.
Yeon-heui’s recounted tales of how her incorporeal friend was murdered becomes the basis of her mother’s new book, ‘Abyss’. The story proves so gripping that it immediately becomes a critical and commercial success – that is until she’s accused of plagiarism once again!
This time her work is eerily similar to a novel called ‘Tragedy's End’ written by an author who stayed in the same country house years earlier. This drives Baek back to the small town to find out exactly what’s going on and to restore her credibility.
It’s a pretty intriguing concept and the script does a sufficiently good job immersing you into its lead character’s jittery frame of mind. Bestseller employs a few of the typical horror twists we’ve all become accustomed to – however it’s the placement of these twists that’s surprising.
The biggest game-changing left turn comes not at the end but at the halfway mark. It’s refreshingly unique that this gigantic gotcha moment is used as a narrative detour rather than a Shyamalan-esque coup de grace.
After the big reveal, the movie quickly shifts out of supernatural mode into full-blown murder mystery mode. The investigative thriller side of the coin works much better than its initial horror trappings but it does get eventually bogged down but an unnecessarily recondite plot that fails to generate suspense.
Bestseller is decent genre mash-up that does both aspects passably well enough. The biggest drawback is that the film hinges on Uhm Jung-hwa’s irresolute performance which is sadly too over-the-top and one-dimensional.
I’m told that this pop star turned actress is great in shallower stuff like Seducing Mr. Perfect or Princess Aurora but she unfortunately lacks the depth to pull off what could have been a memorably gripping protagonist encumbered by terrible psychological scars.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.