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A wealthy man named Sung-soo (Son Hyun-joo) is a happy man with a good family, living in a luxury apartment. But he has an older brother from whom he’s estranged. One day, Sung-soo receives a phone call that his brother is missing and goes to his brother’s apartment building for the first time in decades to look for him. The memories of him get him thinking about when he was adopted as a small boy into his brother’s family.
While visiting his brother’s rundown and dilapidated apartment, Sung-soo hears a story from the apartment caretaker. His brother had been in prison and now hasn’t paid his rent in many months, so the caretaker thinks he’s run away, especially since the building will soon be demolished. Sung-soo grows interested about his brother’s whereabouts and searches the apartment carefully. He then discovers evidence of a woman and assumes his brother has a live-in girlfriend. Sung-soo calls and asks the caretaker about this possibility but the apartment caretaker seems confident, saying, “There was no woman living with your brother.” The situation makes Sung-soo more curious so he stops by the neighbor’s apartments and is surprised by the poor responses, yet while Sung-soo is trying to talk with them, he notices odd markings near the doors of every apartment in the complex. He soon figures out that these odd symbols are codes which he suspects means the gender and the number of people in each room.
While his family waits outside in the car, his wife Min-ju (Jeon Mi-seon) and their children are accosted by an insane person but a woman named Joo-hee (Moon Jung-hee) saves them just in time. Sung-soo arrives while this is happening and when it’s over, Joo-hee invites Sung-soo and his family into her home, the same apartment complex as Sung-soo’s brother. She is kind and welcoming, offering coffee and snacks until Sung-soo asks her about his brother and suddenly Joo-hee takes a completely changed attitude and kicks them out, screaming at Sung-soo “Your brother is spying on my daughter and we live in constant fear. Please make him stop.”
He returns home but couldn’t stop thinking about the “hide and seek codes” on the doors. He visits his brother’s house again and searches again. Actually Sung-soo has serious mysophobia where everything has to be clean and neat; even to eat with his own children is hard for him. Visiting his brother’s dirty apartment is not easy for Sung-soo. But he ransacks the house and discovers that the veranda goes through to the one next door. He learns that there was a woman who was killed there few days ago. Sung-soo suspects his brother is the criminal so he tries to find clues and eventually finds a note from his brother. “No one believes me. It’s unfair. I’m lonely.” It further reveals his brother has a grudge and hatred about Sung-soo and Sung-soo’s family. Naturally, Sung-soo thinks that his brother might now be looking to hurt Sung-soo’s family.
After Sung-soo’s family visited his brother’s apartment, a suspicious man who wears a black helmet lingers around his family. Then, one day, Sung-soo finds the similar symbols carved of his brother’s apartment into his own door.
Directed by Jung Huh, he uses Sung-soo’s brother’s apartment complex’s closed rectangular structure to give the audiences more striking visual effect and amplify the tension without detailed descriptions. It is about the atmosphere. He focuses on expressions of psychological fears, which is significantly more powerful than external fears. It works very well. For example, the film starts with a woman comes home to this apartment building late at night. She gets in an elevator with strange person who is wearing a black motorcycle helmet. The situation makes her and audience very nervous and filled with anxiety. They get out of the elevator together, and she walks behind the person and she discovers that he lives next door to her. The tension builds even more to a terribly frightening moment. The director shows what most people can experience at least once, where someone odd or intimidating is with you in an elevator. It leaves the audience shaken by situation. Furthermore, it is based on real stories that happened in the United States, Japan and Korea.
After watching Hide and Seek, I couldn’t sleep because I was worried it could happen in my own apartment and felt like someone was watching me or someone ate my food while I am sleeping. This after-effect of the movie went on for a few days. Hide and Seek is a scarier movie than a ghost or monster movie because it is real. I think it is true horror movie.
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