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Tartan Video presents
Acacia (2003)

"Jin-sung, you must really like trees."
- Mi-sook (Shim Hye-jin)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: December 09, 2005

Stars: Shim Hye-Jin, Kim Jin-Geun
Other Stars: Moon Woo-Bin
Director: Park Ki-Hyung

MPAA Rating: R for (violence, some language)
Run Time: 01h:42m:49s
Release Date: June 28, 2005
UPC: 807839001709
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

What is the scariest tree in cinematic history? After much barking, it's a two trunk race between the killer lawn decoration from Poltergeist and the demonically possessed sex offending shrub from The Evil Dead movies. However, there is a late entry among the contestants, a South Korean tree that likes to spin bright red yarn. Intrigued? So was I.

Acacia is a 2003 tale from director Park Ki-hyung, who is also responsible for the acclaimed thriller, Whispering Corridors. Acacia didn't receive the kind of acclaim the latter did, but it is much scarier, with a somewhat open ending that will leave you talking long after the credits have rolled. Add to that a pair of decent performances from child actors (a rare feat, indeed), and you have one of the more interesting South Korean horror entries.

Do-il (Kim Jin-guen) and Mi-sook (Shim Hye-jin) are a happily married couple that are unable to have children. After trying for many years, they adopt a son, Jin-sung (Moon Woo-bin), who seems to have a deep connection with Mi-sook at first, as if longing for a motherly figure. However, his new parents soon realize that Jin-sung's drawings are becoming increasingly strange, and he tends to spend a lot of time outside, talking to a large tree in the yard.

Mi-sook amazingly becomes pregnant and Jin-sung is instantly jealous; after the baby is born, Jin-sung has a fight with his parents and disappears. Do-il and Mi-sook search frantically for him, blaming one another for the boy's disappearance. It soon becomes evident to them that the tree could be part of the mystery.

Acacia is a very creepy picture that deals with some very deep, disturbing subject matter. There's never a dull moment, despite a long-developing first act, which is rare in most other films in the recent rash of Asian horror imports. It's basically split into halves, the first involving Jin-sung's adoption and adaptation to his new parents and later, his sibling; the second half deals with his parents' reaction to his vanishing. These culminate in a genuinely shocking finale edited almost perfectly, keeping the viewer guessing even while the big secrets are revealed. I actually watched the last 15 minutes a second time, there are so many small details to absorb and Ki-hyung directs this final act with a great deal of Surrealist visuals.

The performances are among the best in Asian horror films to date, with Moon Woo-bin performing well beyond his young years, making Jin-sung at once creepy and sympathetic. Jin-guen and Hye-jin do very believable work in roles that require a vast array of emotional outbursts, dealing with some very dark, touchy material. Their scenes with Moon Woo-bin are very good, but it's what they do in the second half as they play against each other that makes their performances stand out.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is a gorgeous transfer from source material that was in pretty good shape to begin with. There isn't a hint of grain, dirt, or other annoying debris to be found, allowing the great detail of each and every image to be displayed. Acacia is a very dark film and the blacks are deep and rich. The color spectrum isn't very wide, but the hues that are used (especially the extra-sharp reds) are rendered nicely.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The audio options are Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, and both are very impressive, with the DTS getting the slight edge thanks to slightly wider dynamic range and a bit more aggressive bass. Both mixes have a nice blend of solid, shocking sound effects, and crisp, clean dialogue, and feature very lively surround activity.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Memento Mori, Koma, Phone, Whispering Corridors, Oldboy, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Park Ki-hyung, production manager Chung Mun-gu, actor Kim Jin-geun
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: Acacia comes with a few extras, including an audio commentarywith director Park Ki-hyung, production manager Chung Mun-gu, and actor Kim Jin-geun. This is a rather interesting talk as the trio goes over how the story changed from the original screenplay to what was actually shot. The three participants work well together, and seem to be having quite a bit of fun.

There are five featurettes that run over 20 minutes and cover various aspects of the production: Action and Cut, The World in the Movie, About the Director, Cast Interviews, Interview with Director.

A photo gallery and previews for other Tartan Asia Extreme DVD releases are also available.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

As an Asian horror enthusiast, I'm instantly drawn to material like Acacia, but such outings have been somewhat disappointing recently. Director Park Ki-hyung gets it right, though, as he takes an interesting premise and crafts a horrific tale that is at once touching and sad. Tartan Video does a nice job serving the film up with excellent audio and video presentations, and a few interesting supplements.


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