Detective K returns to round out the trilogy of the successful, big-budget South Korean series set in the distant past.
Our intrepid Detective K, Kim Myung-Min (“Six Flying Dragons (TV)”, “Deranged”), and his trusty sidekick Oh Dal-su (“Oldboy”, “The Good The Bad And The Weird”) are asked to investigate a series of murders on Kanghwa Island where bodies are turning up burnt and with bite marks on their necks.
On the Island, the pair meet a mysterious, and very powerful, woman, Kim Ji-won (“Descendants Of The Sun (TV)”, “Horror Stories”), who has lost her memory, not even knowing her own name. With her power, and Detective K’s brains, the pair team up to solve the mysteries.
Kim Suk-Yoon has carved a name for himself by directing all the Detective K trilogy thus far. His style is one of fast cuts, spinning the camera frequently and flashbacks that are easily confused for a continuation of the thread you’ve just been watching.
All this, and a runtime of two-hours, means Detective K: Secret Of The Living Dead, can be confusing at times; as blasts from the past morph into the people of now and you’re expected to keep track of everyone and everything whilst still enjoying the movie.
This take on the vampire fables we all know so well, and Hollywood has rolled out many, many times, is fresher if not exactly a brand-new take on the way of the vampire.
The comedy is slapstick at times and dad-joke funny at others. They don’t come fast enough to consider this a true comedy, but they interject enough to stop you taking things too seriously at the same time.
There’s a moment when Oh Dal-su re-enacts the famous corridor fight scene from Oldboy, even looking like Choi Min-sik, before realising he’s deluding himself and is brought crashing back to reality. It will give you a sense of the style of humour you can expect to see.
You feel that Kim Suk-Yoon’s style, together with the writing of Lee Nam-kyu (“Awl (TV)”), would have been better served as a series. Detective K has the feel of a mixture of other detective shows you’ll be familiar with; he has the arrogance of Sherlock, the moustache is Poirot-esq and the bumbling detective who solves the case in the end can be seen time and time again.
The look and feel of the film is top-drawer. Sets are lavish, effects are good though the music imbues emotion with its high-strings as the actors give a speech with tears in their eyes. This sits at odds with the rest of the film, though it happens on more than one occasion.
Detective K: Secret Of The Living Dead is a stylish and different take on the vampire stories we’re used to. Setting things in the late 1700’s means what we’re watching is the introduction of vampires into the world, much as the ending tees up the introduction of zombies.
It allows the makers to have some fun with the idea of vampires, the fables of yore, at least, that’s the idea. The reality is a little different as the intrepid detective already knows everything there is to know and so do we given the many vampire films that have gone before.
This feels like a missed opportunity to have more fun with the story and poke fun at the genre. Instead it feels like a “light touch”, as if scared to go too far with things, they’ve held back, and haven’t gone far enough.