It's 1972, during the Vietnam War. A South Korean military base receives radio contact from a group of soldiers that had been presumed dead some time ago. A new platoon is assembled to find them. But the isolated location is a sacred place with many graves and a curse. And before long, strange things start to happen...
When I put the DVD into the player, I had high expectations, which came from two preconceived views. 1. Korean cinema is often seen as the "next great thing" in thrillers and horror. And 2. if there's one thing Asian movies do really well, it's a good ghost story. Boy - was I in for a disappointment. Basically we have a continually-overwrought bunch of soldiers who are sent to a spooky island, and have all manner of war film, horror movie and ghost story cliches thrown at them. As soon as they arrive someone says, "let's take a photo of us all!" - so we immediately know they won't all be coming home. One guy keeps looking forward to taking his child to the zoo when they get back - so we assume he'll be a goner soon. And by the time a silent, ghostly girl with long black hair turns up, I was beginning to wonder if they were seriously taking the mickey.
There's an eerie soundscape which ought to have done a decent job of building atmosphere. Sadly it's completely trampled on by the obviously-CGI mist superimposed onto most of the early scenes. Some of the locations are interesting (the derelict mansion and ruined temple look great). But I really can't say the film is frightening at all. At best it's 'mildly creepy' at one or two points. I don't recall any gore that would justify a 15 or 18 certificate. And surely it didn't get that from the few brief flashes of naked male bottoms we see.
The cinematography is decent enough, but nothing remarkable. A blue 'ghost' POV effect is used now and again, which confused me at first (I couldn't work out why there was a CCTV camera in an abandoned house in the 1970s). This filming technique mainly interrupts the flow of the narrative and just took me out of the movie each time it came up.
If you've watched any big-name American war film, you've already met this cast of cookie-cutter soldiers. Neither the (slow-burn) story nor the characters managed to drawn me in or hold my interest. After a while the continual yelling and sobbing got on my nerves, and didn't help me engage with or sympathise with the men. The acting is mixed. While there are one or two good performances, the low point is the American guy who sounds like he's come straight from an amateur dramatics rehearsal. Every time he spoke it was yet another thing that took me out of the film. There are a few small surprises in the story, but more often things are predictable. Some attempts at humour seem to pass by almost unnoticed. I found it hard to stay interested, which made it hard to concentrate on detail. Add to that some unremarkable, interchangeable characters, and I did feel slightly lost at times.
For me, the biggest crime a film can commit is being boring. And by 45 minutes I was fidgeting in my chair, checking the clock, and resisting the urge to turn it off. It's unusual to find see a war film done from a non-Western perspective, and together with the ghost story element, this could have been a really interesting movie. R-Point feels like a missed opportunity. I found it disappointing, dull, a bit confusing, and it doesn't offer anything new to either the war or horror genres.