From the Archives: Murder Death Koreatown is an unsettling found footage exploitation film

From the Archives: Murder Death Koreatown is an unsettling found footage exploitation film

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.

Originally posted on Cinema76.

The thing that always draws me into found footage films is that feeling of “I’m freaking out right now.” You know the one: You’re fifteen and at a sleep over. The hours are slipping away, a few of your friends have fallen asleep, and now you and the remaining degenerates are staying up late and getting spooky. Creepy stories go around. Maybe an attempt at summoning Bloody Mary in the bathroom mirror. Or, for the truly intrepid, opening a line of communication with the great beyond by way of a Ouija board. Even though you know it’s unlikely you’ll talk to your dearly departed Nana or manifest a bloodthirsty monster from the same place where you brush your teeth, it’s still easy to get spooked when those dark hours arise. And it’s fun too!

The found footage subgenre is my favorite method of obtaining that feeling. While it’s not always evoked successfully, this pocket of horror does it best. Unfortunately, with found footage being relatively cheap to make compared to classically structured horror, the sheer number of films in the catalogue means you’ve got to wade through a lot of movies that don’t work at all in order to get a spooky fix.

But when it hits, it hits sooooo good.

Murder Death Koreatown hits so so so good.


I have a few small issues with it, which we will get into in a bit, but in terms of severely unsettling my shit, this microbudget found footage freakout really does a number. Honestly, the less you know, the better. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil.

The footage takes the form of cell phone video being shot by an unemployed Los Angeles schlub who, after witnessing the aftermath of a murder which occurred in an adjacent apartment complex, decides to do a little independent investigating. If the murder occurred a few blocks over, why would the suspect be arrested in our unnamed hero’s back alley? It’s a question that isn’t really compelling given that suspects often run from the authorities, but in the mind of our protagonist, it’s an oddity worthy of further investigation, so he takes to the streets to try and talk to anyone who might know some more of the details. Soon enough, patterns begin to emerge, shady characters make themselves known, and simple murder becomes the least of our concerns. As it turns out, this all goes much deeper than anyone could have ever expected.

Or does it?


Information about the filmmakers are purposefully scant, and even though this is indeed a fictional film, it’s clear that whoever is behind it is committed to the bit in a way that is quite commendable. No director is credited, nor any of the cast. If not for an end of credits disclaimer, one could be forgiven for thinking this is a genuine piece of found footage. To that end, it should be noted that the murder at the center of the tale is indeed a real one, and many of the uncomfortable citizens that the narrator speaks to are non-actors with no clue that they’re being involved in a fictional film production that is using the real-life tragedy as a jumping off point. While this feels a touch exploitative, especially given the express discomfort of a number of unassuming people being asked to discuss a scary local event, the resulting verisimilitude benefits the unsettling nature of the narrative in a big, exciting way.

This dalliance with crossing a line of taste, combined with the distinctly uncinematic look of a film so committed to veracity may push some viewers away, and it certainly bothered me at times, but I’ve got to commend a piece of work that is explicitly disinterested in pleasing a crowd at the expense of its own identity. Furthermore, I have to celebrate a flick that commits this hard to its vision — a vision that is deeply upsetting in a way that hasn’t been seen before in this subgenre. I found myself increasingly pulled into the investigation, almost because of the lack of classic cinematic language. And by the time the story is careening off the rails into pure madness, that dragon I’ve been chasing — which comes in the form of my neck hairs standing at attention — has been caught once again.

Murder Death Koreatown is now available on Amazon, Vimeo On Demand, and disc.

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