Action / Thrillers, Films, Reviews, South Korea


Kang Woo-suk’s mystery thriller Moss will keep you glued to the screen, but is the resolution really worth waiting for?…

Park Hae-il’s (The Boomerang Family, War of the Arrows, Memories of Murder) troubled character, Ryoo Hae-kook gets a strange phone call informing him that his father has passed away. After hearing this news he decides to go to his father’s last known location in the remote countryside to pay his respects, and most importantly find out who contacted him in the first place. This pleasant spiritual, close-knit community lead by the mysterious ex-cop Cheon Yong-deok (Jung Jae-young, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Public Enemy Returns) seems harmless at face value, but as Ryoo digs deeper something much more sinister is lurking in plain sight. As curiosity takes over and his suspicions get the better of him, it becomes a race against time before the endless dark secrets start flooding to the surface.

Based on the popular Korean story of Yoon Tae-ho’s internet cartoon, Moss (이끼) will lead you alongside the protagonist on a thrilling and haunting journey. From the opening scene, this film will grab you. This is an enticing and interesting take on religion and indeed society as a whole. The one thing that really holds this together is the character development, which this film certainly doesn’t lack. Although trying to get your head around the dark comedy provided by melodramatic performance’s, mainly from Kim Deok-Chun (Yoo Hae-Ji, Public Enemy, The King and the Clown) as the chief’s henchman, gives us some much needed humour but might not be to everyone’s taste. We have excessive flashbacks giving us an insight into virtually every character we are introduced to on screen (let’s just say everyone gets a bit of exposure here). When trying to piece this all together, the consistency of such footage is valuable, until we are over-loaded with information.

Moss contains all the makings of a true masterpiece; expect the flaws are too big to ignore. Notwithstanding the sheer time and thought that has gone into this one, albeit the long running time of 163 minutes is where the film fails. Of course there is nothing wrong with a lengthy feature; however this one pushes way past the line of audience patience exposing the films errors quite plainly.  Due to this, the long awaited finale is flawed in execution. We have this great build up of truths and lies being dished out, but the final resolution lacked that snappy shock moment that the audience deserved. Being so drawn you can’t help but question everything, despite the fabulously twisted and puzzling plotlines. Layers upon layers of yet more sub-plots fall short of adding depth and instead only confuses the structure of the narrative. The premise of the main story-line was attention grabbing enough without the other unnecessary snippets we are subjected to. Nevertheless the first half was very solid even if it seemed that writer Jung Ji-woo (Eun-gyo, Happy End) was trying to put too many ideas into one project. Perhaps cutting down the duration to a more viewer friendly time would have solved this problem and offered up a clearer version of the story to all.

Having said that, putting the hefty duration aside, Moss takes you on a magically haunting narrative, full of secret tunnels and hatches. This is, in its own right a very cleverly constructed story accompanied by an eerie techno soundtrack that only enhances the already atmospheric feel of Moss. Ryoo will not just sit there and stick to the rocks like moss; he needs answers and will do anything to get them. Overall, Moss is a thoroughly entertaining film; just make sure you are prepared for the lull in the middle and the lack of a powerful resolution.

Moss screened as part of the 8th London Korean Film Festival 2013, and is available on UK DVD from Inclusionism.

Home media details

Distributor: Inclusionism (UK)

Edition: DVD (2011)

The DVD of the feature includes extensive interview with the director, Kang Woo-suk and the original comic artist Yoon Tae-ho.

About the author

Gloria Daniels-Moss
A former student and graduate of Canterbury Christ Church University where she had the pleasure to study English and most importantly Film! Her main love for Japanese Cinema comes from seeing Spirited Away when it was screened at Pinewood Studios for Club 7 at the mere age of 11... more

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