It is 1972, and a platoon of Korean Soldiers have vanished on a Vietnamese Island known as R-Point during the conflict - so why is their base still receiving cryptic messages from them months later? There was one survivor, and he is too injured to make much sense, only repeating that he was the only one left alive and everyone else was killed, so the military decide to send another group of soldiers out to the island to get to the bottom of the mystery. The man heading this team is Lieutenant Choi (Woo-seong Kam), who has just suffered a traumatic experience that saw his friend killed by a Viet Cong posing as a cleaning woman, and he has a reputation for bringing bad luck. But maybe the bad luck is on R-Point...
One of the successful number of horror movies that emerged from the Far East from the nineties onwards, this was scripted by its director Su-chang Kong and in its first hour lives up to the clichés set down by Oliver Stone's Platoon for Vietnam War stories on the big screen. The soldiers here fit into the usual categories, with the tough sergeant, the one who is too young for the conflict but signed up anyway, and that traditional kiss of death, the man who just has one last mission to embark on before he's allowed to go home. As the plot moves on, however, they become largely interchangeable, and none of the actors get much characterisation to work with.
Where the film scores is its atmosphere, and the naturally creepy effect of hearing a transmission that sounds unnerving. If you've ever searched the dial of your radio late at night for something obscure and heard something inexplicable instead, and I don't mean finding a song you recognise followed by a stream of unintelligible dialogue in a foreign language, then you'll know what the filmmakers are aiming for. It's not solely weird radio messages of course, and when the soldiers walk ashore from the boat they have less supernatural worries when they are fired upon.
After a short battle they manage to defeat their attackers without any casualties, and discover that it was only one person firing on them, a young Vietnamese woman who is lying and dying in the undergrowth. She doesn't say anything and the men debate over whether to put her out of her misery with a gunshot, but they grow uneasy and superstitious and elect to leave her slipping away where she is. Eventually, after spending a night in the jungle, they find a large, abandoned building which they opt to make their base of operations.
From that base, they begin their search for the lost platoon, but there's a encroaching feeling that the missing soldiers may be closer than they think. One man gets separated from the others and appears to meet up with a platoon who promptly disappear into the tall grass, and the incidents like that which throw them all into confusion mount up. Unfortunately, the director tends to throw the audience into confusion as well, more comfortable with staging scenes of mystery and strangeness than providing a straightforward explanation. Some of these are very effective, granted, but it becomes tiresome after a while when you gradually realise that there's not much else to the proceedings than that. It's nicely handled, but too wrapped up in itself. Music by Pa-lan Dal.