The Hypnosis review: A gruesome fable against bullying

Still courtesy of Golden Village Pictures
Photo: Golden Village Pictures

Rating: NC-16
Length: 85 minutes
Director: Choi Jae Hoon
Cast: David Lee, Johyun, Kim Do Hoon, Nam Min Woo, Kim Nam Woo
Release info: In theatres 22 April (Singapore)

2 out of 5 stars

As the movie began, the lights dimmed and chilling strains of discordant, minor key violins played in the theatre hall, my spine crawled as I realised I had made a horrible mistake.

I hate horror movies. I will never understand the appeal of this particularly macabre genre, although I am very piqued and entertained by gore.

My piteous heart shrank as I groaned inwardly, pressing the folds of my jacket against myself and sinking deeper into the plush theatre chairs.

Half of me cursed at my not reading the brief properly and wanted to flee if it became too much, and tell my boss that I couldn't review a horror movie. With squinting eyes and fingers to my ears, I steeled myself, trying to decipher the plot while resisting the undignified urge to scream at the scary bits.

I definitely took heart from the familiar cast with David Lee (Itaewon Class, Hotel Del Luna) as Do Hyun, a college English major who spends the first half of the movie frolicking with his very juvenile friends Byung Joon (Kim Do Hoon) and Chan Gyu (Nam Min Woo), doing frivolous college frat boy things like drinking and chasing girls.

But events take a turn when Do Hyun's mentor Professor Yeo, played by celebrated veteran actress Seo Yi Sook (Start Up, Hotel Del Luna), introduces him to the new transfer student Jin Ho (Kin Nam Woo), who is timid and jittery as heck because he is still recovering from trauma when his father died in a freak car accident.

Jin Ho tells Do Hyun about his hypnotherapy treatment from a Professor Choi (Son Byung Ho), who uses it to ease Jin Ho's trauma, and encourages Do Hyun to give it a shot.

Everything goes to hell in a handbasket when Do Hyun undergoes hypnosis; he sees eerie images of a hanged man, an abandoned orphanage building and a girl who appears with her head covered by a gunny sack with ropes tied around it.

These visions continue to visit him sporadically, and they also seem to haunt only his friends around him and not anyone else. The visions expand to include burning moths, floating ashes, crawling maggots and broken glass, which drive them into spells of crazed fear, violent rages and shaking spells, then inevitably to maiming and death.

As you can guess, The Hypnosis is all about vengeance as a dish served cold; in this case, served with broken glass, boiling water and suicide driven by madness. The gunny sack girl's haunting was a result of bullying, and she has come back to deliver just deserts.

I was half driven mad when during an exam, Jin Ho starts going into a hypnotic trance and instead of sharpening his pencil, he starts shaving off bits of skin and meat off his finger instead with a penknife. Good lord.

Another gruesome scene which made me want to run out of the movie was when Chan Gyu went into a trance in the gym and encounters the gunny sack girl, who promptly digs her eyes out (with lots of squishy sound effects) and offers them to him.

The Hypnosis isn't on par with your run-of-the-mill horror show (in my limited experience), and although it does feature the usual jump scares accompanied by the creepy synth music and booming bass, it was the slow, grotesque gruesomeness of it all that really got me hypnotised.

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