Movie Reviews 266 – The Red Shoes (2005)

The Red ShoesSpoiler alert. The red shoes in the movie The Red Shoes which features prominently on the movie poster and DVD cover art aren’t red at all. They are clearly and emphatically hot pink. This unexplained and bizarre turn of events is just one of the many things that had me scratching my head in this Korean horror release.

But it’s all about the shoes, in this case a particular (pink!) pair that mysteriously appears and whose allure quickly convinces any nearby girl or woman that they must have them. Once pilfered, the women become obsessed with their possession and bad things begin to happen, inevitably ending up in other women (equally lusting after the shoes) dying horrible deaths that includes their feet being severed. The shoes then mysteriously end up back with the one who first got their hands on them.

Tenuously based on a Hans Christian Andersen fable, the story centers on Sun-jae (Kim Hye-soo) who sets out with her young daughter Tae-su when she stumbles upon her husband cheating on her. Near destitute, she rents a small dilapidated apartment and hires decorator In-Cheol (Kim Sung-soo) to help her build a salon in which she hopes to revive her former optician business. She finds the stray shoes on the subway soon after and takes them home. But little Tae-su immediately falls for them and mother and daughter soon become combattants for the fancy footwear. When Sun-jae’s best friend runs off with the shoes during a visit, she never makes it home. With the shoes soon back in Sun-jae’s elaborate glass shelving shoe collection that would be the envy of Imelda Marcos, she starts wearing them more frequently when In-Cheo remarks that she would look good in them. As Sun-jae slowly transforms from a shy and timid single mother to an alluring woman with eyes for In-Cheol, she continues her constant fights with little Tae-su. Her expanding quest for answers regarding the shoes include the history of similar murder mysteries that are somehow linked to a hunchback elderly woman living in the basement of her apartment building who knows more that she is letting on. Sun-jae eventually unravels the history of the shoes going back decades ago and induced when another woman was spurned and then murdered. Reuniting the shoes with that original owner promises to end the terror.

Bearing all the staples seen in countless Asian horror movies, my interest waned during the first acts as I started checking the stock trademarks on my list. Once you’ve seen one cherubic ashen faced kid poking out of the dark, you’ve seen ‘em all. By the time it gets to long haired women hiding their faces while roaming in dimly, flickering lit subways in the middle of the night my checklist only needed ‘woman crawling while bent over backwards’ (which unsurprisingly they eventually covered). But just as I was about to chalk this as a lusterless, Ju-on wannabe, the stakes were elevated with a final act that shockingly provides a secondary element to all of Sun-jae’s torment and the true mystery of the shoes.

While aspiring to all horror hounds with a foot fetish, non-orthopedic inclined fans can equally enjoy this story of jealousy, vanity, greed and envy, all delivered in a plot that features multiple bloody shoe battles. And for the last time they’re pink dammit.

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