Korror: Fine Feet… or No Feet At All

The Red Shoes (2005) aka 분홍신 (Bunhongshin) is a South Korean horror movie about a pair of cursed pink (not red!) shoes.

I love the tag line: Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s… Remember this next time you want something that’s not yours -_-

Directed by Kim Yong-gyun

  • Kim Hye-soo as Sun-jae
  • Kim Sung-soo as In-cheol, Sun-jae’s boyfriend
  • Park Yeon-ah as Tae-soo, Sun-jae’s daughter
  • Go Soo-hee as Kim Mi-hee, Sun-jae’s friend

Sun-jae is a seemingly successful and smart woman, with an adorable daughter who loves to dance. On the inside, she feels insecure, inadequate, and unloved, particularly after she discovers her husband’s infidelity. Sun-jae soon leaves with her young daughter, Tae-soo, to begin a new life.

One lonely night while riding the subway, Sun-jae sees a pair of pink shoes. She is an avid shoe collector and the unique pair of pink shoes makes her feel, beautiful. The rhythmic clicking, the hot pink color, and the perfect fit; Sun-jae is overcome with confidence when wearing the pair, especially when she flirts with a dashing, young interior designer In-cheol.

Back in the opening scene, the same pair of pink shoes is sitting at the subway, waiting. One school girl eyes it and wears it, automatically feeling good about herself. Then, her friend arrives and wrangles the shoes away for herself. Soon after, strange events happen; the unfortunate girl falls and sees her feet cut off, a really bloody track of a mess. Bye bye pretty feet..

Bye Bye Feet

Soon enough, Sun-jae discovers the curse of the pink shoes. Those who wear the shoes magically fit them and are overcome with strong feelings of satisfaction and happiness, but at a price. Feelings of envy and selfishness wring its damaging effects on the person. The daughter, Tae-soo, fights her mother for the shoes. When Sun-jae’s best friend, Mi-hee steals the pair from Tae-soo, she is also faced with a cruel and gory demise.

Now, Sun-jae and her boyfriend work together to solve the mystery behind the shoes before she and her daughter fall victim to the curse. Well, the tragedy behind the pink shoes goes back 60 years. A gorgeous, aspiring ballet dancer with long black hair is the star of Seoul’s stage (I’ll call her the White Swan, but I recall her name being Keiko). And of course, there’s a jealous rival who’s ready to steal the man and the stage (I’ll call her the Black Swan). So, Black Swan sleeps with the man, a photographer, and kills the White Swan. They get married, but not for long. At the grand wedding, the Black Swan dances in the pink shoes, which contrasts horribly with her wedding dress honestly. Soon enough, the dancing couple is mysteriously caught in a spiraling rope on stage and get hung to death. The ghost and her prized shoes come back in the present day and haunt those who are envious, greedy, and desirous.

The past haunts the present

The movie is entertaining overall, though the intermittent flashbacks do get confusing. You have to do some implicit reading to understand what happened in the past, and even with that, I’m not sure if I have the tragedy correct. The ending still leaves you with questions and an eerie feeling. For one, there’s always a twist to these movies. The movie drags on to reveal that a real person, and not some ghost on a mission, is a real murderer. For another, I was shocked to deduce that Tae-soo is the reincarnation of Keiko, the “White Swan.” Before the movie ends, she is as pale as a ghost, but she’s dancing gracefully in front of the mirror, just like how Keiko used to. The past never dies, because it lives on into the present.

The reincarnated White Swan?

Side comments:

  • Mind you, subways in Asia are so… nice and clean, a really pretty shade of gray-blue. Plus, there are no grimy bums downing booze or shaking cups of pennies at you. Same thing in Taiwan and Japan, the subways are almost, elegant.
  • Pink shoes, really? I love pink, everything from Barbies to flowers, from my stethoscope to my attire. But pink shoes are difficult to match with anything except more pink clothes. Even then, it’s just too flamboyant.
  • It reminds me of the movie, The Black Swan (2010), out now in theaters. Well, I was watching The Red Shoes on Youtube, and then I saw a link for the The Black Swan trailer. Except for the part with competing ballet dancers and the handsome prince stuck in between, nothing else is similar. Looks like I’ll be planning a trip to the movies soon to watch this acclaimed psychological thriller.

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