Hong Kong Cinema

The Doll Master (Inhyeongsa)

  • Made: 2004
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: Region 2 PAL
  • Release Date: 20th June 2005
  • Company: Optimum Asia
  • Length: 88 minutes
  • Picture: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Sound: DD5.1
  • Language: Korean with English Subtitles
  • Extras: Interactive menus, trailers, interviews, making of documentary, featurette, deleted scenes
  • Classification: 18


Jung Yong-ki


Kim Yu-mi, Chun Ho-jin, Kim Bo-young, Shim Hyung-tak, Im Hyung-joon , Lee Ka-young, Ok Ji-young, Im Eun-kyung

If there is one thing that gets US producers and distributors salivating the most, it is the Asian horror genre at the moment. The clamour for film rights in order to make 'new and better' US versions has been the most frenzied and undignified sight in California since the gold rush back in the 1850s. The Doll Master (Inhyeongsa) is a recent attempt by Korea to tap into this red-hot market with the possibility of a Western distribution and remake deal as the incentive. This film marks a directorial debut for Jung Yong-ki, who also took the writing credits for this movie.


There are a few things that always seem to guarantee a level of creepiness in horror movies. There are clowns, weird looking kids, midgets and human dolls. As you will have deduced, this film is based on the latter subject matter. The Doll Master focuses on a wheel-chair bound doll-maker who invites a bunch of new age bums to visit her museum and be models for her new dolls. It is pretty damn obvious from the beginning that there is more to the dolls than meets the eye. Within an hour of the film running, the visitors are being picked off one by one in more gruesome and chilling circumstances. To add further intrigue to the story there is also a 'spooky girl' who keeps appearing every now and then ('spooky girls having been very successful in the Ring franchise) and someone locked in a downstairs dungeon.


The film is well captured by rookie director Jung Yong-ki, it is a well presented and occasionally haunting piece of cinema. The cast do a good job in making the film work and credit must go to Kim Yu-mi for providing a strong heroine character. However, this is not enough to spare the film from a mediocre impression overall. The actual 'horror' takes a long time to build up to 'crescendo' but the tension lacks any edge and when the killings begin there is nothing startling or shocking. Unless you have a generic phobia over dolls, you will struggle to raise more than a whimper at the horror scenes in Doll Master. The film is captured well but fails to feel that original or fresh. By the time the youths have arrived at the museum you already have a pretty good idea of who will survive / die and which order they will die in. The 'spooky girl' thing could have been much scarier, but it lacks any conviction on why it should terrify the viewer. Plus the generally competent gore effects are let down by some horrible am-dram makeup at the end.


Credit goes to Optimum Asia for releasing another classy disc in terms of presentation and content. The 16:9 anamorphic print is supported by a decent DD5.1 Korean audio track and good subtitles. The Region 2 disc features a host of worthwhile extras including a 'Making of Documentary', Cast and Crew interviews, Deleted scenes, featurette on special effects and some trailers. A great disc all round!


The Doll Master has striking resemblance to a modern Steve Martin film. As Steve's comedies regularly lack any actual comedy, this could be seen as a horror movie without any real scary moments. This is a shame, as the film is stylishly done. What has made me chuckle is that Miramax are reported to have bought the re-make rights for this movie (that will be one to miss!) Credit must also go to Optimum Asia for ensuring that the film is presented with a stylish package and plenty of quality extras.