Karaoke rooms or Noraebangs (노래방) typically hold a very special place in the hearts of all Korean locals. These rooms are often used to sing, dance, and relieve stress with friends and coworkers alike. In Korea, the vast majority of clientele that visit karaoke rooms are typically older males. To alleviate some of the lack of female companionship, most karaoke bars in Korea will hire attractive “helpers”, also known as a Doumi (도우미), that will come sing, drink and dance at a premium rate.
Karaoke Crazies follows the story of the Addiction Karaoke (중독노래방) bar, which is located in a small countryside town. The karaoke is owned and operated by Sung Wook (Lee Moon Sik), a lonely and desperate business owner who routinely watches pornography on his computer to pass the time. When the local factory closes its doors, Sung Wook feels the sting of its economic impact as his business slowly begins to dry up. To turn things around, Sung Wook decides to place a wanted ad for attractive karaoke “helpers” on his store front to help bring in more customers.
Sung Wook soon hires his first “helper”, Ha Suck (Bae So Eun), who is more interested in playing PC games, than looking attractive for male customers. Ha Suck, with her standard green Adidas track suit, is a total abomination for the Addiction Karaoke bar. Droves of male customers begin complaining of her unwillingness to cozy up to their singing and slightly inappropriate advances. When Sung Wook tells Ha Suck that the business is in danger of closing, which also threatens her ability to play online computer games, she begins deploying a new (and more illegal) strategy to keep her male customers satisfied.
As business slowly begins showing signs of life, Sung Wook decides to hire a professional karaoke “helper” named Na Ju (Kim Na Mi). Na Ju is the life of the party and surely knows how to keep her clients happy without resorting to sexual means. With the full team in place, Addiction Karaoke bar finally makes it back on its feet…until a serial killer hits the town.
As the film progresses, the name of the karaoke bar becomes more and more fitting. Each character seems to be dealing with their own inner demons and/or addiction, but they seem to find solace in each other. The underlying narrative of the serial killer that is loose on the town becomes an integral part of the transformation of Addiction Karaoke and its crew. The overarching energy of the movie is perfectly portrayed through a dark theatrical setting that really extenuates the somber mood of the cast. Most of the movie’s sets seemed to be a bit reminiscent of old Tim Burton movies that really helped add a dark theatrical element to the movie.
Lee Moon Sik (Mapado, 2005; The Big Swindle, 2004), better known for his roles as a strong supporting cast member, perfectly captured the essence of the desperate and lonesome karaoke owner, Sung Wook. Lee’s strong dramatic acting truly helped the audience relate to Sung Wook’s struggles, as well as his yearning to bring the other characters together in a sort of makeshift family (which he himself truly misses). Lee also provides subtle comedic relief with his delivery as an innocent and naïve business owner who will do anything to succeed, as long as he is not directly involved in the process.
Bae So Eun (Doctor, 2013) truly delivered as the introverted and tom boy-ish Ha Suck. Ha Suck is an attractive and mysterious woman, but is sort of hidden behind a thick façade of intentionally unkempt hair and questionable clothing. Bae displayed a knack for being the oddball of the bunch and her performance was not only believable, but made the audience connect with her on a more personal level as her backstory is revealed. Bae’s character seemed a little half empty by the end of the film, as she had the most baggage of the group, yet didn’t seem to have such a satisfying triumph.
Kim Na Mi (Melo, 2014), who played the beautiful and outgoing Na Ju, was a great spark of energy that helped keep the film light and entertaining. Her brash and confident style of acting helped bring Na Ju to life as the hard partying singing machine that guys tend to drool over. However, once her backstory is revealed, Na Ju becomes an integral part of the story that helps change the crew forever. Kim showed off her strong range for being the bubbly and perky Na Ju, but also did a great job of helping the audience see the insecurity of being a beauty queen.
Overall, director Kim Sang Chan put together a great eclectic mix of characters that held a strong personality of their own. Although the character development was a bit lacking at times, the characters each had their own charm and short backstory that helped the audience empathize with their inner turmoil and subsequent revelations. Additionally, Kim really took a unique artistic gamble by filming 99% of the movie in an underground karaoke bar that displayed, at times, a Muppets sort of fantastical vibe with its ostentatious sets. In summary, Karaoke Crazies is a distinctive blend of horror, fantasy, and comedy all mashed into a light and enjoyable film. This is a movie that I would recommend to others, but would not consider it as an absolute “must see”.
The Movie Beat team was able to attend the short Q&A session at BIFAN after the film showing. We apologize for the dim lighting, but the actors and Kim Sang Chan did a great job of answering the audiences’ questions about the film.
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