Review: DETECTIVE K: SECRET OF THE LIVING DEAD Honors The Living With Love And Laughter


One can certainly comprehend sticking with what works as a creative. With director Kim Sok-Yun's commitment to mining the work of author Kim Tak-Hwan undoubtedly comes a delightful trio of entries with the Detective K franchise that began in 2011 and clearly it's done the filmmaker some justice after working in television in the early two thousandsies.

Both the first and second films remain wishlist items for me while Well Go USA has since taken it upon themselves to harbor the release of the latest installment, Detective K: Secret Of The Living Dead. Watching this, it became even more intriguing wondering how the first two would play out on a narrative level prior to constructing a threequel considering what unfolds.

Lee Nam-Kyu, who had a hand in adapting the screenplay with other writers for the first two films, lends us a solo act this time around with a screenplay that incorporates a steady presentation of odd-couple slapstick comedy to pair with the horror and mystery. The latter is what comes first though, but it's not too long before you're finally immersed in a two-hour adventure that delightfully proves to be more gag than gore.

Award-winning actor Kim Myung-Min dons the title role of Kim Min once more along with actor Oh Dal-su who plays his hapless assistant, Seo-Pil. The wheels start turning near the top of the film when the daughter of a lodge owner approaches our private investigator to look into mysterious incidences of charred and vanguishing corpses. What ensues is a whirlwind of revelations that begin with a woman suddenly reawakened from the dead with no memory of who she is or how she died, and an elusive man in black who might have answers that will not only affect her, but also embroil our hero sleuth in a dark, tragic conspiracy that could shake the bedrock of Joseon.

Actress Kim Ji-Won of Horror Stories fame makes her appearance here as Wol-young, a supernatural figure from the top of the film who slowly comes into herself the more curious she becomes about what's happening, most notably from the top of the film when a man dies while reaching his hand out to her. Questions surrounding her humanity come into play as the film dabbles in vampire lore with the emergence of actor Lee Min-Ki as Heukdopo, the aforementioned man in black.
Unabashed by the grim millieu that permeates the story, Nam-Kyu's script obliges further with a romantic subplot that sees our hero flatfoot acquaint himself more and more with Wol-young. The detective is amply petrified of her, but never one willing to turn down an opportunity to put his best foot forward in sheepish fashion, even as Seo-Pil steps in to rain on his parade as foolhearty and impressionable as he himself is.

Kang Nam-Chul's cinematography is the first thing that stands out when it comes to the action. Sweeping shots that and panning around act as characteristic to Heukdopo's often phantom movements, and with a steadiness and smoothness that excite the senses. Fight scenery isn't a headlining feature in Detective K: Secret Of The Living Dead, as much as they're only useful and added at certain pivotal moments of the film while the rest of the plot deals in unraveling the puzzle behind Wol-young's death.

We learn the overall answers to "why" and "who". The "how" falls flat with only an air of superstition and the general prevalence of such things as odd occurances and the mythos to support it. It's worth noting, but one risks crippling the experience should a serious approach be taken for a film made to enthrall you with suspense and farce. At best, it serves the spectacle and stabilizes the shared connection between Kim Min and Wol-young, and also adds to the pantomime of Seo-Pil's shenanigans, one that would make celebrated auteur Park Chan-Wook proud.

Whether or not you've seen the first two of the franchise, Detective K: Secret Of The Living Dead certainly gives its intended audience what it wants and a little bit of a lot else. It's also worth suggesting to go see anything with Oh Dal-Su in it as he's easily become one of my most favorite actors to date, and his chemistry with lead actor Myung-Min is clearly one that I hope will do justice for a fourth entry.

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