There is, it seems, an impulse within recent South Korean filmmaking to revitalize moribund disreputable genres. First, The Host flips the monster movie on its head, and now Im Dae-Woong's To Sir with Love arrives stateside, complete with a new title (Bloody Reunion), to shame the way the direct-to-video revolution has gotten crassly lazy with slasher films. Do we, as proud Americans, need to tell South Korea to keep their paws off our genres? Or have we enough strength of character to accept their superior efforts and enjoy them?
Considering the entertainment value that would be sacrificed, the latter option seems the best course of action, since Bloody Reunion offers a nasty sort of pleasure long since abandoned by lowest-common-denominator films like Tamara or The Butcher (to name two of 2006's least impressive American genre attempts). Until it loses its way in its final minutes, it's an unapologetically brutal and camp-free example of hyperbolic slash-happy sickness.
The story, as ever, is the umpteenth variation on a theme. A group of young adults convene on a beach home occupied by their ailing former elementary-school teacher Ms. Park (Oh Mi-hee) for a nostalgic celebration of their past glories before Ms. Park passes. As it turns out though, Ms. Park wasn't the nicest or most tactful of educators; consequently, all the attending parties have psychic (and in a couple cases, like former aspiring baseball player Dal-bong [Park Hyo-jun], genuine physical) scars as a result of her less-than-ideal tutelage. They've all shown up with big metaphorical axes to grind, so it's inevitable that someone would push that into the realm of the literal.
It's a good forty-five minutes before the sharp objects come out, though, and it's to Im's credit that Bloody Reunion holds our attention even before the grue commences. The former students are all pretty messed-up, and though their grievances seem relatively petty, they are genuine; their actions and words may not deem them likeable, but they all at least stay within the realm of the sympathetic. The cast is rough around the edges but generally convincing at putting this across. Especially interesting is Sun-hee (Lee Ji-hyun), the requisite ugly-duckling-to-swan; what is generally a bitchy diva type in domestic product is given a more measured portrayal here, helped along immensely by Lee's eerily calm self-possession and omnipresent black sunglasses.