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The Housemaid

South Korea’s probing look at one horrifyingly corrupt family

Rod Lott June 10th, 2011

Here’s how to tell the two Koreas apart: North Korea’s the one run by the crazy-scary guy; South Korea’s the sane one that just makes movies about crazy-scary guys. And girls.


Case in point: “The Housemaid.” A remake of the 1960 film of the same name, it peeks into the household of a family so corrupt, so evil that ... well, it will remind you that we’re all the same, no matter the hemisphere.

Entering the Goh mansion as the new, second maid is Eun-yi (Jeon Do-yeon, “Secret Sunshine”), a homely young woman rightfully awed by her spacious surroundings does her best to respect to and abide by the wishes of businessman Hoon (Jung-Jae Lee, “Typhoon”) and his pregnant, pretty wife.

One night, she learns just how far those go. After a frustrating round of coitus interruptus with the wife, an unsatisfied Hoon walks downstairs to Eun-yi’s room with a bottle of wine, eager hands, an air of startling arrogance, and an order to “suck it like a straw.” She complies.

The act has consequences — namely, the kind that take nine months to gestate. And that’s when things go from bad to irrevocable.

Although “The Housemaid” is fiction, you’ll be aghast at its depiction of class treatment among the characters, whose self-serving ugliness certainly is based in fact. You know when you hear the sudden screech of a car’s tires and just know a crash is soon to follow? Much of Im Sang-Soo’s visually, socially sharp film is like that: The tires screech early, and the crash indeed comes, more than an hour later.

While you know this can’t end well, you won’t be prepared for exactly how it does. One thing’s for sure: You won’t soon forget it. —Rod Lott

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