gonjiam: haunted asylum (film, 2018) ↔

Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum has been out for a few years now, but I only got around to viewing it recently after seeing it recommended on various best horror movie lists.

The film starts by introducing the six YouTube content creators who will spend the night in the infamous Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital. We get brief backstories on each character to learn their personalities and motivations for being there. Right away, it was clear that this group had some familiar archetypes: the ambitious leader and host of the Horror Times channel, the skeptic, the believers, etc. It was a bit cliche, but it did the job of setting up the basic characters and power dynamics within the group. We also get some brief historical context about disturbing events at the hospital when it was operational.

The group arrives after dark and gets to explore the sprawling, dilapidated building armed with camera gear, flashlights, and attitudes ranging from excitement to hesitation. However, not much happens for a while except the usual creaks and shadows that come with the territory. About 30 minutes in, things start to pick up with minor jump scares and glitches with their equipment that suggest a possible paranormal presence. At this point, I was ready for more and hoped it would layer steadily on the additional creep factor. Instead, I got a bit of a lull again as characters regrouped and doubted what they experienced was supernatural. This back-and-forth of building tension and then releasing it without much payoff got a bit frustrating. It resembled other found footage films that promise scares but don't fully deliver for long stretches.

By the halfway mark, I was losing interest and wanted to see if it would kick into higher gear soon. That's when the group decides to check out the infamous Room 402, which has some disturbing backstory involving gruesome patient deaths. Naturally, this is where things get intense as scary occurrences start happening quicker and more malevolently. Entities begin stalking and physically attacking members of the group who are becoming panicked and unsure who or what is behind the haunting. The last 30 minutes finally captivated me as a horror enthusiast with a steady barrage of creepy images and situations. People get violently dragged away, striking apparitions are sighted, and the threat level escalates to a degree that had me on edge. While some of the visuals and plot devices felt a bit too reminiscent of films like As Above So Below, it mostly worked thanks to committed performances and the grim atmosphere.

In summary, while Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum won't top lists of best-found footage chillers, it's a decent way to kill 90 minutes. The pacing issues and slight predictability hold it from greatness. It doesn't reinvent any wheels but tells its tale with skillful craftsmanship, bringing this allegedly real haunted locale to disturb life. For that reason alone, it's worthwhile for fans of the found footage horror looking for their next scare fix.