"A baby... I'm positive her voice said 'The baby is coming'..."

Sorum tells the story of Yong-hyun (Kim Myung-min), a taxi driver and Bruce Lee obsessive, who moves into apartment 504 in the dilapidated, almost abandoned, Migum tenement building. Before he has even had a chance to settle in and unpack his few belongings, one of the building's dwindling number of remaining tenants (played by Ki Joo-bong) invites himself into Yong-hyun's new home and, over a subsequent number of encounters, begins to recount tales of the death of a would-be novelist (in the recent past) and the brutal murder of a woman (30 years previously), both of which occurred in the apartment which Yong-hyun has moved into. The man, who is in the process of writing a novel based on the tragic events, also claims that the disembodied spirit of the dead woman haunts Jong-hyun’s apartment and insists that she can be often be heard singing a lullaby to a baby.

In the midst of learning the dark history of the Migum tenements, Youn-hyun comes into contact with another of the tenants, Sun-yeong (Jang Jin-Young) - a deeply unhappy and introverted woman who has lost a child and is regularly beaten by her violent husband. As Yong-hyun and Sun-yeong begin to spend increasing amounts of time together they invariably become closer, however, with each of them increasingly affected by issues of mental instability and feelings of desperation and hopelessness, audiences must question whether their problems are caused by their pasts (and the secrets they are so desperate to conceal); the struggles resulting from their disadvantaged lives; or if there is indeed a malevolent spirit at work, infecting each of them in turn like a contagious disease and attempting to reinact the horrors of the past...


The allusion to an otherworldly (possibly evil) spirit within the plot, combined with the fact that the film is from around the same time period as a large number of Asian horror films featuring long-haired, wild-eyed, vengeful female ghosts, is likely to result in prospective audiences thinking that Sorum is more of the same. It's not.
Rather, it is a brooding and unsettling tale of the effects of paranoia and neuroses on the unstable mind and, ultimately, the dark depths to which human beings are capable of sinking.


With regard to the two main characters, there has seldom been a relationship more plainly doomed from the outset than that of Yong-hyun and Sun-yeong. Though both outwardly attempt to hide their true nature from prying eyes, it becomes increasingly apparent that the endless struggles that they have had to endure have left them psychologically damaged, resulting in each desperately searching for anything which will allow them to fix their lives:
Yong-hyun is a man of few desires. Though he is poor, with next to nothing to call his own apart from his beloved pet hamster, his lack of means is of no consequence to him whatsoever and the sentiment associated with his few belongings is of far more importance to him than their monetary value. Orphaned as a child, his fear of being looked down upon and used (as he feels he has been in the past), drives his every move and, over the years, his sole focus has become finding someone who will love him unconditionally and whom he can be sure will not leave him. He also truly believes that, in any relationship, physical pleasure goes hand-in-hand with emotional commitment and secretly hopes that Sun-yeong will be willing to give him that love and loyalty.

By contrast, Sun-yeong has had her fill of people. The loss of her child and the years spent in an abusive marriage have left her utterly numb and she is determined to never again allow anyone to consider her as their property. Sick of life, with no faith or belief in love, she sees sex as purely physical - a temporary pleasure within an existence devoid of hopes and dreams - and though she is willing to offer her body to Jong-hyun (in return for the helps that he gives her), she will never be willing to offer him her heart. To her, their relationship is simply a means to an end and she automatically assumes that Yong-hyun feels the same way about it.
When it begins to dawn on Yong-hyun and Sun-yeong that each is not what they initially appeared to be, you can be sure that, whatever the outcome of their situation, there certainly won’t be a happy ending.



From the first moments of Sorum, the oppressiveness of the Migum tenements pervades every scene - to the extent that the building almost becomes a character in itself. Darkened hallways, strange noises and flickering lights combine with an ever-increasing sense of dread to create a truly unsettling viewing experience. There are no “boo” scares in Sorum, the story builds incredibly slowly and passing statements within conversations (and reactions to them) are often as important to proceedings as the outward events occurring on screen. As such, Sorum isn’t a film which will appeal to, or be appreciated by, everyone and fans of regular horror movie fare would probably be better to look elsewhere. However, for those who are happy to let a film slowly seep into their skin, Sorum has a payoff that is as powerful as it is bleak.


Sadly, Jang Jin-young passed away in 2009 following a year-long battle against stomach cancer (for more information click here). Watching her portrayal of Sun-yeong, an introverted woman of few words, beaten down by life and barely able to find a reason to keep on living, it is easy to see why she received numerous awards for the role. Her ability to convey a wealth of emotions, with her eyes alone, is praise-worthy in itself but she succeeds to such a degree that audiences will never be in any doubt as to the internal dialogue going on in Sun-yeong's mind at any given time. Of particular note is a scene in which Jong-hyun turns to see Sun-yeong standing in front of him, her face badly beaten and her clothes covered in blood. The scene last only seconds, but in that time Jang Jin-young is able to say an incredible amount without speaking a single word.
Though the rest of the cast give first-rate performances throughout Sorum, Jang Jin-young's portrayal is head and shoulders above them all and it stands as a tribute to the talent of an actress, and lady, who will be greatly missed.


With its slow, brooding and genuinely unsettling narrative, Sorum isn't a film which everyone will savour, but its uncompromisingly bleak depiction of the vicious depths to which human beings are capable of sinking certainly allows it to stand out from standard horror movie fare.


Kim Myung-min, Jang Jin-young, Ki Joo-bong

Directed by Yoon Jong-chan


The DVD reviewed is the Korean (Region 3) single disc release which is presented with an anamorphic transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The print used for the transfer is uniformly clean with no noticeable ghosting or image artifacts present. Some of the darkest scenes are slightly grainy, but that can be attributed to the film itself, rather than being an issue with the print used or the transfer to digital. Sound is provided as Dolby 2.0 and is crystal clear throughout. Excellent subtitles are also available in Korean or English.

DVD Details:

• Director: Yoon Jong-chan
• Format: NTSC, Anamorphic, Widescreen, Subtitled
• Language: Korean
• Subtitles: English, Korean
• Sound:
Dolby Digital 2.0
• Region: Region 3
• Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
• Number of discs: 1
• Classification: 18
• Studio: Peterpen Pictures

All images © Peterpen Pictures
Review © P. Quinn