Face isn't the best or scariest Asian horror film you'll ever see - many may in fact find it rather dull and boring - but I say it encapsulates everything that makes Asian horror superior to that of the West. If you see an American horror movie, you no doubt get up to leave as soon as the ending credits begin to roll - i.e., American horror makes no emotional impression whatsoever on the viewer. At the end of Face, however, I sat here dwelling on the beauty of the story I had just watched play out in front of my eyes.
The opening scene of the film suggests that Face will be a pretty bloody, violent film (it doesn't' get much more violent than kidnapping and tying up a victim, then cutting out her heart while she is still alive and quite conscious). It's a great opening scene, but it will have some viewers quickly becoming disappointed by the distinct lack of more blood and guts that follows in its wake. Instead, what you get is a poignant story of a very sick little girl and her deeply concerned father. The girl has just received a heart transplant, and her father, Hyun-min (Hyeon-jun Shin), worries a great deal about her health. He even tries his best to find out where his little girl's new heart came from (with no success, as the doctor is not about to release that kind of information).
In the midst of all this drama is a string of murders, with the victims' bodies all but destroyed in acid. The police desperately need Hyun-min's skills at facial reconstruction to try and put a name to the latest victim, but he is too torn up over his daughter's health crisis to be of much help - until, that is, Jung Sun-Young (Yun-ah Song), a new initiate in the field of facial reconstruction, comes calling with the latest unidentified skull and news that she is to be Hyun-min's new assistant. Things start getting more interesting later on when Hyun-min, having been haunted by strange apparitions, bad dreams, and other oddities, comes to believe that the skull he is reconstructing is that of the person whose heart now beats within his daughter's chest.
Halfway through the film, I was wondering if this thing was going to pack any sort of punch at all - the answer is a resounding yes, so whatever you do, don't give up on this film once you start watching it. Yes, watching a couple of rather uncommunicative people sitting around a model of a human skull doesn't put you on the edge of your seat, but even these slowest of scenes ultimately play a crucial part in the story.
The film isn't perfect, by any means. A number of the random scare tactics are too Ringu-like to unsettle anybody, and I never even spotted a ramp for a couple of the extreme jumps in logic that push the story toward its conclusions. Still, though, Face features a couple of twists that some may not see coming (although it's fairly easy to spot the clues in hindsight, which leads me to say that the core of the story is wound together pretty tightly) and ends with an almost unparalleled air of beauty and poignant grace. As much a human drama and mystery thriller as it is a horror film, Face breathes new life into all of the genres it touches upon and - best of all - stirs the few dying embers that symbolize what little is seemingly left of horror as an art form in and of itself.