By Lim Yian Lu
Length: 85 minutes
Director: Cho Kyung-hun
Cast: Moon Nam-sook, Jang Min-hyuk, Park Seong-gwang
3 out of 5 stars
Based on popular Korean thriller webtoon by Oh Seong-dae, Beauty Water is an animated feature film which tells the story of Yaeji, a make-up artist voiced by Moon Nam-sook. Working in the entertainment industry, Yaeji is severely overweight and feels insecure about her looks. She is also ridiculed for her appearance by beautiful and famous celebrity Miri, voiced by Kim Bo-young.
One day, Yaeji receives an anonymous package of Beauty Water, guaranteed to reshape her face in 20 minutes. Although shocked by what the mysterious water can do, she still gives it a try. After seeing how pretty her face becomes, Yaeji yearns for more and looks for the Beauty Water surgeon (Jo Hyeon-jeong), to help transform her body despite the steep cost.
As if slipping out of her ugly cocoon, Yaeji becomes a beautiful woman who can turn heads. She moves on to change her name and even becomes a celebrity. From then on, Yaeji’s life starts spinning out of control, as she starts dating a handsome ex-celebrity Ji-hoon (Jang Min-hyuk), and cannot satiate her desire for her distorted view of beauty.
Apart from the fully coloured graphics and improved drawing, the movie has enhanced the story-telling of the webtoon by making it more coherent and logical. There was more background given to Yaeji, allowing the audience to relate better to the kind of stress and anger Yaeji had to go through that made her want to change her appearance so badly. Along with this background story, the movie introduces original characters, such as celebrity Miri and the talent manager (Choi Seung-hoon).
Contrary to the webtoon, the movie’s Beauty Water is not as potent and mostly removes flesh. In an accident while using the transformative potion, Yaeji is left with minimal flesh but her bones and organs are still intact. It makes surviving the accident more plausible, unlike in the webtoon which received responses like, “How is she alive?” At least, in the movie, Yaeji still looks human, rather than a pile of remains.
Although toying with the plot made the story more believable, at the same time the movie lost the insanity and horror elements present in the webtoon. When it comes to horror movies, there are usually two types: the type with supernatural beings, and the psychological kind. Beauty Water belongs to the latter. Despite the movie still being mildly disturbing, it did not highlight how difficult and precious it is to find suitable flesh — a premise for most of the important scenes in the webtoon.
The movie also modified the ending slightly, presumably due to the background story given to Yaeji. As a result, the character of Ji-hoon is a little different from the webtoon’s. The movie’s leading scene to the ending presented a different kind of terror, but it did not outdo the webtoon’s version. This may be due to the fact that Ji-hoon’s character was not as well-built in the movie.
In addition, the movie employs cliched and fast-paced suspenseful background music, which did not add points to the plot. Instead, it comes across as loud and intruding, forcefully generating tension among the audience. More often than not, it is more effective to use slower, creepy background music or even silence.
While horror lovers will find Beauty Water disappointing, it still brings out the society’s perverse attitude towards good looks. In a way, Beauty Water is like the famous Korean film 200 Pounds Beauty, but less comical and more dark.
Release date: 17 September 2020 (Singapore)