This is a movie from Toilet Pictures. If the name of the production company is any indication how stinky a movie is, then this would be it. I think I'm not really a fan of horror movies, not that I'm chicken, but rather this year alone, I haven't been genuinely spooked by what's on offer so far, be it from the West, or from Asia. 9:56 is no different, great premise, but poor execution, relying on cliched techniques (I think these are the only tools of the trade available?) to try and elicit some heart thumping moments.
Se-jin (Ko So-young) is a lonely career woman, who one day notices that some apartments in the block of flats opposite hers, undergo blackouts simultaneously at precisely 9:56pm everyday. No, she's no voyeur, but a series of unexplained deaths in the neighbourhood, including one which she encounters herself on a subway, start to draw her deeper and deeper into the mystery surrounding these deaths.
With horror movies, there's always a pseudo-logical explanation within the movie about how the spooks come about. That's just about the most interesting thing that happens in the film, the unravelling of the "Truth", although it won't take seasoned film lovers to guess the plot halfway through. Which of course makes it a very unsatisfying experience watching this movie.
There's a myriad of characters like the wheelchair bound girl, and the neighbours who take turns to care for her, as well as a schoolgirl, detective, a mentally challenged boy and a spooky train commuter. But following genre formula, these folks are there usually as fodder for deaths, or in this case, pointless red herring characters whose sole aim by the filmmakers is to mislead the audience, nevermind if they convolute, or add little to forward the plot.
And don't get me started on the techniques employed here. Quick cuts, sudden appearances, long hair ghouls (ahhhhhhh, so passe!) who can't move properly, copious amount of blood like it flows down a mountain for free, and the list goes on. But credit to the sound engineers for creating some ear piercing bone crunching sounds used each time the spooks move, though it seems like a one trick pony.
Don't waste time on this, even if you're a horror fan. It's a complete waste of a promising premise, and in the end, you feel like you've just be taken on a ride. A very long and painful one to endure. It's high time for some innovation in this genre, otherwise one film will easily look like another, with ugly long haired monsters moving funny but with the ability to make sudden appearances accompanied by loud sounds. Oh, and can someone oil those doors while they're at it as well.