Mankind has a long history with cursed objects…you might say it goes all the way to the very first man and woman, Adam and Eve and the object: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Cursed objects in narratives are usually vehicles for testing a character’s integrity in some way. They usually come with rules. For example, in the Garden of Eden, the only rule they had was don’t eat from the tree…one lousy rule and they just couldn’t help themselves thus outing all of mankind…all both of them…as rule breakers. The consequences can range from inconvenience to devastation.
We’re drawn to these narratives even though we know the protagonist is going to fall for the temptation every time. Cursed objects come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There’s boxes. We hope beyond hope that Pandora will NOT open that damned box every time we hear the story. We cringe every time we see Carol Anne plop down in front of that blank TV set in Poltergeist. There’s the puzzle box in Hellraiser. The ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark is a kind of cursed box. There’s cursed jewelry, like the ring in Lord of the Rings or the necklace in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. There’s the button in Drag Me to Hell. There’s the video tape in The Ring. There’s even The Book of the Dead in The Evil Dead. But the granddaddy of all cursed object movies has to be The Cabin in the Woods…every freakin’ thing in the basement is a cursed object!
Don’t just think this is an American thing. Korean horror has its fair share of cursed objects like in the movies The Wig and Cello. But we’re here today to talk about 분홍신 (The Red Shoes). And the literary term I’d like to discuss is juxtaposition. That’s when you place two things side by side in an attempt to link them in the minds of the viewer/reader. It creates a subliminal alignment that lies in the mind and influences our reading of a text.
This happens in The Red Shoes. This is not a bad horror film. It’s got atmosphere and enough blood effects to please the gore crowd. The acting is really good and the story, though confusing, has a nice twist at the end. There’s an element of revenge and justice that’s always nice and also seems to be connected with cursed objects. As you can imagine, the cursed object in this film are a pair of pink shoes that cause anyone who sees them to covet them and anyone who puts them on to…well, die a horrible death. Thus the name of the movie the Red Shows…red for all the blood.
What the director does with juxtaposition here is almost every time we get a really violent, bloody image, he juxtaposes that with an image of beauty…like beautiful ballet sequences. It’s jarring at first, but what it does to the viewer is it softens the violence to the point where we’re almost lulled into thinking violence is linked to art somehow. At first I thought since there was an actual artist in the movie that the link would lead to him being the killer, but no such luck. The opening where a shot of severed feet juxtaposed with ballet dancing is seamless. This was the first time I saw this movie and I really enjoyed it. It may be slow for western tastes, but stick with it. You won’t regret it.
For a great short story about a cursed object, click and read "The Monkey's Paw." So creepy!