The nature of death and everything to do with it is a funny old thing. One of the perks of viewing foreign cinema is being able to witness death in all its forms being handled in distinctly different ways. Take for example South Korean’s bubblegum fantasy Hello Ghost, a quirky comedy starring Cha Tae-Hyun and brought to the screen by the veritable talents of Kim Young-tak. Much like the slew of other mainstream films populating SoKo cinemas, Hello Ghost features the usual over abundance of cheesy musical score and airbrushed love interests. For viewers maybe unfamiliar with this particular brand of cinema an initial viewing of such a film can often be akin to being strapped to a chair and being forced to watch Gangnam Style on continuous loop whilst being poked by metal chopsticks. For those of us already accumulated to this genre though, Hello Ghost is a welcome treat full of pathos, gentle humor and yes, airbrushed lovers.
Telling the tale of the perpetually down beat Sang-Man, Hello Ghost holds zero punches in its opening minutes as we see the film’s protagonist attempt to overdose on medication in a bid to take his own life. Unfortunately for him, we later learn that this attempt is futile as he survives. During his recovery Sang-Man learns that his ordeal has caused some “side effects”. It would seem that Sang-Man has been blessed/cursed with the gift of a sixth sense, an ability that enables him to see spirits. Quickly he discovers that he is a beacon to every ghost in the vicinity and before he knows it realizes that he has no choice but to help every one with his or her last wish, a feat that is no small effort.
At this point some readers might be yelling at the screen “that sounds a lot like Ghost Town” and to a degree, the titles do share some cursory similarities. However, where as the former was a somewhat bloated Ricky Gervais vehicle, the latter is tightly packed with some fantastic characterization and poignancy. Take the character of Sang-Man for example, a character in a cycle of perpetual sadness, played confidently by Cha Tae-hyun (My Sassy Girl). His plight in particular brings a real sense of gravity to the otherwise carefree story, constantly prodding the viewers with the reminder that Sang-Man is still hopelessly suicidal. The ghosts in question also are a rag-tag bunch of oddities with a laundry list of disorders ranging from sexual deviance to careless joyriding.
Essentially divided up into four distinct chapters, and with an adorable Meet-Cute thrown in for good measure, Hello Ghost is a title that manages to provide equal handfuls of humor and heart. Sure, the film stumbles here and there, with some notable gaps in the Ghost’s logic and a sub-plot or two that fails to really go anywhere, but overall Hello Ghost is worth the time of any ardent South Korean Cinema fan.