Review bắc kim thang

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BackArts & Culture » Film & TV » Review: Despite Laughable Jump Scares, "Bắc Kim Thang" Is Surprisingly Smart và Topical



With lush landscapes of the Mekong Delta as the background, Bac Kim Thang is surprisingly wicked and intelligent, but most importantly, it provides feminist advocates a new way lớn topple the patriarchy: becoming a blood-spattered specter & haunting misogynists lớn death.

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I remember too well the vivid sensations surrounding my five-year-old mind during the nights sleeping in my grandma’s cottage in Kien Giang Province, in the Mekong Delta"s deep south. During the day, the delta is a land of sparkling waterways, towering coconut trees and vast, verdant paddy fields that stretch towards the distant horizon. It’s a land of bustling commerce và kind-hearted people who are just as emotionally rich as the rivers on which they built their communities.

Once night falls, however, everything seems lớn take on a sinister alter ego, or at least that was what my young self cooked up in his city-slicker brain. My grandma and her neighbors followed a habitual schedule of going lớn bed & waking up early, so as early as 8pm, the town becomes deserted. The expansive swaths of fruit trees become trang chủ to growling spirits; the rivers, opaque with alluvium, harbor monsters who are all too eager to pull one’s legs beneath the surface — every rustling of leaves, every shift in shadows can be a misinterpreted as a sign of evil.

By capitalizing on these stark differences in atmosphere, Bac Kim Thang, directed by Tran Huu Tan, seeks to subvert the common tropes associated with the Mekong Delta. In the movie, the friendly become calculated, the open-minded turn staunchly bigoted, the rich are riddled with social ills. It premiered at Busan International Film Festival in October in the A Window on Asian Cinema category và officially hit Vietnamese theaters on October 25. Despite a lack of big-name cast members, Bac Kim Thang was a commercial success for a mature-rated feature, raking in VND30 billion within three days of opening.

The title borrows from the name of a children’s folk song, which has a tragic và supernatural back story in itself, but the kicker is that some details referenced in the lyrics also mirror those in the movie, piling on yet another macabre layer that’s lost in translation in its English title, trang chủ Sweet Home.

The plot is mix during the 1990s, & revolves around a noble family living in the Mekong Delta. Though the exact location is not specified, eagle-eyed fans would recognize the family’s mansion as one of Vinh Long’s famous old villas. Inside the majestic home, built in the French colonial style, lives a three-generation household: Thien Tam (Trinh Tai), the main character, và his parents, grandpa, uncle, và two helpers. The uncle, a widower, has a daughter named hai Lam (Minh Hy), whose existence và disappearance is the sole tension point of the narrative.


Minh Hy plays nhị Lam, a teenage girl who"s mistreated by her family just for being female.

Both Trinh Tai and Minh Hy are fresh faces with limited experience in cinema, but were adequate in their roles, lending an air of innocence khổng lồ the pair of close-knit cousins; at the time of filming, Hy was just 15 years old. Still, the characters don’t offer a lot of material for them khổng lồ showcase their acting ranges.

Picturesque Vinh Long appears on screen as something out of a historical novel. Khổng lồ reach the house, one has to lớn travel by boat across a canal lined with cajuput trees & their spidery roots. Cinematography is a sterling point in Bac Kim Thang, where the beauty of the villa & delta is captured with assured angles và nuance. Every detail of the building, from the imposing metal gate to lớn balconies adorned with elaborate traditional motifs, evokes a strong sense of jaded opulence. The mansion’s condition itself serves as a metaphor of its inhabitants’ mindscape — after decades of prosperity, signs of rot have slowly crept up, subtle at first, but gradually slipping towards a climactic crash.

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The phối is based in an old villa in Vinh Long.

Even before the moral decay surfaces, the family had always been overt and unabashed in their hatred towards nhì Lam, all for something that she has no control over: her gender. The nauseating sexism is evidenced across the movie’s duration, from childhood flashbacks khổng lồ current conflicts. If Thien Tam, as the family’s only boy, is coddled và fussed over, nhì Lam is brushed aside, emotionally & physically abused over trivial slip-ups. He’s allowed an education, while her request lớn go lớn school was laughed at because, “why vì you want an education when you’re a girl?” The most heart-wrenching scene occurs over a dinner with all family members present. Hai Lam, barely old enough lớn hold her own chopsticks, reaches for a chicken drumstick, but accidentally drops it on the floor. The mistake is met with swift admonition — a brutal smack on the forehead. She’s also berated by her aunt, Thien Tam’s mom, for daring khổng lồ touch something reserved for the family’s cháu đích tôn, or only true heir.

Sexism is Bac Kim Thang’s overarching theme, which is well-done with assertion and purpose. Up until the midpoint of the movie, the script is adamant in its quest lớn explore this ugly side of rural Vietnam, which seemingly drives nhì Lam to lớn her demise. The injustice is so thick and astounding that I’ve never been this passionate in rooting for the “villain” in a horror movie, và I’ve seen my fair share of teen slasher flicks. Slash their neck và drown them in alluvium, sister! The movie did such a fine job in building my sympathy for nhị Lam và hence, bloodlust for her abusers, that the latter half, when a twist happens, catches me off guard — no spoilers though.


From left lớn right: Thien Tam, his uncle (and nhị Lam"s father), his father, & his mother.

Bac Kim Thang is the directorial debut of Nguyen Huu Tan, whose previous works are mostly television commercials and some shorts. It’s a considerable first effort, with sleek cinematography và a smartly composed script, albeit not without shortcomings. Most of the time, Bac Kim Thang seems to suffer from an identity crisis: it can’t decide if it wants to be a psychological thriller or horror film. This confusion results in mismatched expectations among movie-goers who came in prepared for two hours of entertainment with jump scares and mindless gore, especially after seeing its trailer.

What Bac Kim Thang turns out khổng lồ be at the over is a cautionary tale against the dark facets of the human psyche — one that could disrupt the very fabric of a person’s grasp on reality or, if fueled by greed, could drive them khổng lồ the point of turning on their own blood. Sometimes, the horror lies within those lớn whom we’re closest. The twist is shocking, but well-written; those fond of Jordan Peele’s narrative curveballs might be happy khổng lồ witness the final events unfold & every puzzle piece fall into place. This, however, renders the bloody scarecrows & ghostly apparitions doled out in the first half of the movie (and all over the trailer) rather meaningless và comically irrelevant.


The lush landscape of Vinh Long is captured beautifully inBac Kim Thang.

If visuals are a huge plus in Bac Kim Thang’s favor, sound editing & mixing are glaring shortcomings. The film’s background music is lượt thích an excited puppy that hasn’t been taught restraint. It plows into scenes with vigor và doesn’t hold anything back. Emotional scenes are made cloying by a Korean drama-esque soundtrack, và every movement of the main character at night is accompanied by the ominous drone of dread. Any nuance used when building ambiance is undermined by an over-reliance on sound effects that are almost patronizing, as if the sound mixer doesn’t trust his audience to lớn have the capability lớn detect emotional cues.

In a movie industry where local horror flicks are frequently dwarfed by their foreign counterparts, the commercial success of Bac Kim Thang is a sanguine sign, especially when Vietnamese-made horror movies are subjected to a much more stringent vetting process than imported features. The areas in which the movie falters, be it genre confusion or sound effects, could all be improved through training and better resources. Luckily, Bac Kim Thang has gotten one of the most crucial aspects of a good film right: a good script which challenges viewers intellectually và makes effective use of its roots in Vietnamese history và culture.