Room No.7 (BIFAN 2017) – Review

Secrets abound inside Room. No.7

21st Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival
World Premiere

Room No 7Room No.7 (7호실)

Directed by: Lee Yong-seung

Starring: Shin Ha-kyun (신하균), Do Kyung-soo (도경수), Kim Dong-young (김동영)

Synopsis: Doo-shik (Shin Ha-kyun) runs a shop where customers can rent DVDs and watch them in private viewing rooms. His part-timer, Taejung (Do Kyung-soo), has a lot of debts and is working to pay off his student loans. Unfortunately, the business has taken a turn for the worse and customers have grown scarce. When Doo-shik fails to pay Taejung’s wages after two consecutive months, Taejung takes a high risk job out of desperation and ends up hiding a “secret” inside DVD Room No.7 that may ultimately help him through his debts. But when Doo-shik also ends up hiding a “secret” of his own inside Room No.7, a back-and-forth struggle between the two men erupts as they fight to keep their secrets safe.


Review

As the opening film of this year’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, Room No.7 arrives with a lot of anticipation largely due to the film’s stars Shin Ha-kyun and especially Do Kyung-soo, who is better known as D.O. and one of the main vocalists of the highly popular Korean-Chinese boy group, EXO. With legions of fans behind him, Room No.7 was crowdfunded by an impressive 616 different investors and the film’s premiere sold out in under 30 seconds. So with anticipation running so high, it is hard to say whether Room No.7 managed to satisfy those in attendance equally.

D.O. EXO

Room No.7 is a dark comedy that takes place largely in what is known as a DVD Room. In Korea, DVD Rooms are basically motels for young couples on a budget looking for some alone time. You can select a DVD movie similar to how you would in any typical movie rental shop and then “watch” the movie in your own private room. This could be a strange concept for non-Korean viewers but these are fairly common in Korea. With the mysterious and shady nature of these kinds of establishments, the DVD Room makes for a fairly interesting setting. Unfortunately, Room No.7 felt A LOT like last year’s more well-rounded Karaoke Crazies (2016).

It is best to go into Room No.7 with as little knowledge of the film’s plot as possible. This isn’t because of any major surprises than you don’t want spoiled, but rather that there is such little plot to be had in the first place. We have the two “secrets” that each man hides within Room No. 7: Doo-shik (Shin Ha-kyun), the owner of Hollywood DVD room, wants to keep his secret in the room while Taejung (Do Kyung-soo) wants his out. In the meantime, Doo-shik is desperately trying to sell the store as he can’t make it profitable. In between showing the store to prospective buyers and trying to ease the tension between him and his landlord, Taejung and Doo-shik are constantly dealing with problems arising from their interests behind the door of Room No.7.

There is a lot of physical and situational dark humor that makes up the bulk of the film and is at its best when the two men get desperate to manage their “secrets”. The other side of the film is a commentary of the current state of employment instability among the younger generations in Korea. It’s characters are those who took risks but fell short, or acted on advice that didn’t pan out and are now struggling to survive in the ever-competitive era of neo-liberalism that can easily cast these individuals aside and label them as weak. How people deal with their shortcomings and failures, and the measures they will take to stay afloat is what Room No.7 highlights and ultimately succeeds at in this respect.

Room No.7 rides too heavily on the backs of its stars. Shin Ha-kyun, fresh off a stellar performance as the stoic and cold blooded leader of assassins in The Villainess (2017), returns with another strong performance with his portrayal of a slightly eccentric man in desperation that parallels his work in the masterful Save The Green Planet! (2003). Do Kyung-soo was quite solid in his role as well as the down-and-out youngster trying to gain some kind of a foothold in the world. The amount of huge gasps from his fans during several scenes of him smoking or using vulgar language early on in the film was quite amusing as well, and only later once his character became more established was it accepted by them and able to be enjoyed.

Overall, Room No.7 is enjoyable and great to look at even though it somewhat lacks in plot development. The elements of dark comedy and social commentary are strong but not ground-breaking. Stylistically, it was a great film to open up the festival with and is sure to be sought after and enjoyed by particularly fans of the EXO member D.O. and those looking for some fairly light thrills and laughs to go along with them.

Trailer


 

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