Most people probably can relate with the eeriness of being afraid that their closet hiding some kind of monsters. The first installment of Narnia franchise brings back the classic idea of how the closet may store more than clothes, and it’s the exact premise of The Closet, although this South Korean movie leans more into the horror aspect of it. This movie is starred by renowned actor Ha Jung-woo, in which his character faces struggles to maintain balance between his careers in architectural field and to take care of his daughter after his wife has passed away due to an accident.

The Closet may provide unoriginal root idea, but it doesn’t mean it cannot bring the freshness into it. It is actually a work of a very new filmmaker, Kim Kwang-bin. Well, the movie offers an insight of how great potential that the director poses. The horror-based story apparently only presents as the backdrop of its humanity side. It is a worth entertainment to watch if you like horror but yet to have opportunity to deep into the world of South Korean cinema world.


Synopsis of The Closet

As mentioned briefly above, the film tells a story about a struggling architect Sang-won (played by Ha Jung-woo) to deal with raising his daughter following the unfortunate car accident event that kills his wife. Needless to say, the father and daughter duo doesn’t have the best relationship in the beginning.

The plot starts when the daughter, Yi-na (played by Heo Yool), starts to get her mood lifted by her imaginary friend. Turns out, her “friend” is actually an underworld’s spirit who tries to possess her and makes her acts strangely, along with making Sang-won to have nightmares. The tension rises where Yi-na is disappearing and it reaches the center ark where Sang-won has to find his daughter.

However, it is a pleasant surprise to know that this movie, which seems to carry classic and typical horror storyline, actually delivers a deeper story about father-daughter relationship. The viewer get to see  the development of how Yi-na, who’s in the beginning receiving bare minimum of affection and seen more as a struggle to his father, to the realization by Sang-won of how important she is – obviously after her disappearance takes place.

There is a scenes sequence where Sang-won falls into spiral as he encounters difficulty to discover Yi-na. He begs helps from the police and puts flyers all over the town. It doesn’t help the fact that online trolls on social media spread bad rumors about how he is being the one who’s responsible for his daughter’s disappearance.

The resolving stage of The Closet starts when an exorcist named Kyung-hoon (played by Kim Nam-gil) offers helping hand to the father. He’s the one who finds out about Yi-na’s closet and how it has connected her to the underworld.


The Casts and Characters

Well, for those of you who have been familiar with South Korean movies, must have recognize some actors that starred in The Closet. The movie has Ha Jung-woo who made famous appearance in The Yellow Sea and The Handmaiden. In fact, this film marks his first work on horror movie throughout his career on entertainment world.

There is also actor Kim Nam-gil, who has acted on the popular box office hit Memoir of a Murderer and Pandora, a Netflix release that can be watched globally. Kim Nam-gil won the best actor award in the public channel SBS in 2019 and this time, he serves as lead character, the exorcist who assist Ha Jung-woo’s character to find his lost daughter.

Below is the list of The Closet castings and characters:

Main casts:

  • Sang-won, played by Ha Jung-woo, a single parent who works as architect who struggles to move on after the event of his wife’s death.
  • Kyung-hoon, played by Kim Nam-gil, a helping exorcist who cracks the mystery of how Yi-na is brought to the underworld through her bedroom closet.
  • Yi-na, played by Heo Yool, Sangwon’s daughter

Supporting casts:

  • Myung-jin, played by Kim Shi-ah
  • Seung-hee, played by Shin Hyun-bin
  • Myung-jin’s mother, played by Kim Soo-jin
  • Myung-jin’s father, played by Pak Sung-woong
  • Do-hyun, played by Kang Shin-cheol


The Movie Reception

In its origin country, The Closet faced a tight competition with other box office popular releases such as Hitman, Honest Candidate, and Parasite which is being re-screened after its Oscar’s wins.

During the initial release week, this movie succeeded to sold over than 680,000 ticket on more than 1,100 screens across the country, resulting in $5 million gross proit. By the second week, the number raises steadily into 1,1 million of viewers. By the mid-year, it landed the 6th spot on the best South Korean’s grossing movie of 2020 by obtaining more than $9 million of gross profit.

2020 is a great year for horror genre in Korea, especially with the hype of Peninsula release in zombie themed movies. This gives benefit to the movie – despite it being the debut work of director and screenwriter Kim Kwang-bin as well as the fact that the movie has very bland title. The enthusiasm is also supported by the presence of veteran and acclaimed actor Ha Jung-woo.

The Closet is produced by revolving on the theme that has been touched over and over again in Soth Korean cinemas. However, it is hard to diminish how the movie walks over the issue of social awareness, which is a timeless topic to discuss until it is no longer relevant – a point that for now, seems so utopian and far away for this modern world.

Again, what makes the movie great is how it brings the human story lesson on the core. It’s safe to say the element of horror serves basically as its foundation for further drama related to the psychological relationship between a father and daughter.


The Movie Review

The extremely personal, touching on human relationship, ground theme is what makes The Closet stands out on the saturated field of genre that it chooses to fall on. Leaning on being softer horror, it offers minimal blood and jump scare which may mimics Hollywood horror films more. It prefers to emphasizes on the personal journey that a father has to go through in order to become better at his role.

Both the lead characters, Ha Jung-woo and Kim Nam-gil, are the known actors in the industry of South Korean cinemas. They are succeeded in making the characters shine by serving emotive acting. Despite of not being familiar with this genre at all, the performance of Sang-won is very convincing, not to mention how character of Kyung-hoon brings fresh comical side into it.

The movie will entertain the occult lovers by seeing possession of underworld demons in The Closet. However, even the non-horror fans audiences will find this work enjoyable and touching by the single dad story that has to make extra efforts and sacrifices.

The little use of CG elements may not be the best, but the rest of effects in this film work greatly to eliminate the lines between underworld and the real world. Its cinematography is so keen in order to show the viewers of how the huge, airy rural house makes a frustrating place to live for the characters. Another praiseworthy aspect is the movie score, which is strong enough without being overwhelming to match with the minimum effect of jump scares.

The most major issue with the movie is probably the title. It is short, uninspired, and dull. However, it shouldn’t deter anyone from watching the movie to enjoy the rate combination of horror and emotional film.


More about The Closet

It is more than easy to find horror movies with the same core elements, some being Asian horror staples, the Japanese films such as The Grudge and The Ring. Even though The Closet touches on broader storyline, you may want to watch how this movie gets its inspirations and influences, which probably wouldn’t fade away in the upcoming years of horror movies history.

What’s interesting is the fact that this movie is not labeled under ‘horror’ category, but instead ‘drama’ and ‘mystery’ movie. It is an understandable choice once you have seen how the movie turns, as it contains different elements that wouldn’t exactly match with horror genre, just another plus for those of you who aren’t really favor on seeing ghost and all.

As for the exorcism side, there is no chance to pass on Korean classic The Wailing, which probably considered as the primary exorcism movie throughout the history of South Korean cinema. It is both a critical and commercial success, which tells a story about investigating policeman who has to discover about mysterious illnesses and deaths and race against time to solve them to save his daughter.

Another recommendation is The Fortune Teller, which also brings comedy on the table. For the Hollywood counterparts of The Closet, you may want to check out Poltergeist. You can get to see how the horror genre in Korea got the inspirations from a decade ago.