...when the screen takes over...

The Ghost Detective, First Week (1)

B+
The Ghost Detective

Episode 1 & 2

Casts: Choi Daniel, Park Eun-Bin, Lee Ji-Ah, Kim Won-Hae, Lee Jae-Kyoon, Mi-Ram; Director: Lee Jae-Hoon; Writer: Han Ji-Hwan

The Ghost Detective, Episode 1 & 2

The first episode starts with Elvis Costello’s ‘She’ playing on the background whilst slowly, a muddy spot surrounded by grassland comes into view under the rain. A hand sticks out of the earth dramatically, still. Seconds later, the stillness is disturbed as the fingers move. The hand struggles to let out an arm and then a head of a man, who is gasping furiously for air until he’s finally standing free from what seems to be have been intended to be his grave.

How did he get here? And why?

 

Well, two days earlier…

A car, in it are a woman and a man in business suits, passes by the office just as Lee Da-Il (Choi Daniel) and Han Sang-Seob (Kim Won-Hae) are quarreling about a particularly bulky leather sofa that is stuck by the entryway — they are clearing the office and moving out of it because their ‘inquiry’ business is failing and Sang-Seob is deep in debt. The woman, Attorney Baek Da-Hye (Park Joo-Hee) commissions them to investigate the disappearance of two missing seven year old children, Song Eun-Yool and Jeong Ga-Ram. “The police are getting nowhere,” she says. But Da-Il detects that there is more to the story: a third child, Lee Ha-Eun, is missing whose father, CEO Lee Kyeong-Woo (Park Ho-San), is waiting in the car outside.

Da-Il goes out and impresses the CEO by telling him to report his chauffeur to the police. The blackmailing letter comes from his chauffeur, who may have just taken advantage of the situation to rip him off. His deduction proves to be correct when the police finds the ransom money hidden by the chauffeur in the hidden compartment of his employer’s car — a smart young detective Park Jeong-Dae (Lee Jae Kyoon) makes the breakthrough during the search. The CEO offers Da-Il and Sang-Seob the office space for free forever — he has just bought the property this morning — if they manage to find his daughter. “Dead or alive,” he says.

 

 

Da-Il and Sang-Seob begin the investigation by examining the playground where Eun-Yool went missing. Her mother had said that she looked away only for a second when Eun-Yool vanished. Da-Il thinks Eun-Yeol must have been lured by something as she left the playground through the bushes. They find a button and a pinch of animal hair in a nearby sewer pipe opening. “It might not be a person who took her.”

They then go the ballet academy where Ha-Eun disappeared. A girl, Oh Se-Rin, who goes to the same kindergarten as the three missing children, runs out crying. Asked why she’s crying, Se-Rin confides to Da-Il that she fears Bo-Ri will come for her as well and whispers in Da-Il’s ear why she’s scared. She had told the adults about it but no one believed her. “Do you believe me?” she asks Da-Il. He just says that since he doesn’t believe anything, he checks everything with his own eyes. Their exchanges are observed by Jeong Yeo-Wool (Park Eun-Bin) who comes for packed drinks delivery.

That night, after looking into the reports, financial statements of persons of interest, and cctv footage in the police investigation files, Da-Il focuses on one of the kindergarten teachers, Lee Chan-Mi (Mi-Ram).

 

The next morning, Da-Il and Sang-Seob investigate the kindergarten in the guise of moving company’s agents doing estimations. Da-Il finds an empty doghouse, tagged Bo-Ri, and fur similar to the one near the first abduction site. The school director is bitter and irritable while the teacher Lee Chan-Mi, who lives in the annex of the school, is strangely subdued. Da-Il notices traces of dog hair on her shoes and asks about the dog. Bo-Ri, a german shepherd and loved by the kids, has gone missing a day before the children went missing. Chan-Mi assures them that Bo-Ri always come back even though the doghouse is locked. Bo-Ri often goes in and out through a hole under the fence.

While inspecting the animal corners once more, Sang-Seob and Da-Il discuss their findings. The school is suspicious. The fact that there’s no food and water bowl in the doghouse, which implies that Bo-Ri isn’t expected to come back, contradicts Chan-Mi’s words. Sang-Seob probes the possibility of the Director being the villain — “she reminds me of my aunt,” he says. “When I was a child, I thought my aunt would murder me.” — but Da-Il thinks Chan-Mi is the culprit.The question is motive. If it’s money, abducting Lee Ha-Eun should be enough — three abductions ruin the kindergarten’s image.

We’re catching a rabbit…

Da-Il enters Bo-Ri’s plot and observes a bushy corner, from which a chunk of caution tape border usually used in construction is seen. They almost get caught lurking about the doghouse by Chan-Mi, and invent a runaway rabbit as an excuse.

They leave the kindergarten and bump into Yeo-Wool, who’s doing delivery. She overhears them talking about employing part-timer for these sniffing works and Da-Il going to check out Se-Rin’s story. Yeo-Wool takes pictures of their vehicle and goes to the police station where she is warmly welcome by the chief and not so much by Sergeant Park (although he looks expectant). She has been making packed drink deliveries to them, putting notes on the pack.

Suddenly Se-Rin comes to the police office, and encouraged by Yeo-Wool, trying to tell them about Eun-Yool following Bo-Ri that day. She gives them the picture of her, Eun-Yool, and Bo-Ri the dog. The chief shrugs it off as product of a vivid imagination which angers Se-Rin. “I did see them!” Her mother then comes and apologises for her conduct and babbling, attributing it to the shock of missing her friends. Detective Park consoles her and advises them to go to psychologist. Yeo-Wool steps in and challenges them that Se-Rin may have been telling the truth. “Why don’t you give her a chance?” Her interference causes Detective Park to dismiss her harshly and tell her to never come back. “I don’t need your drinks,” he says.

Meanwhile, Da-Il checks Se-Rin’s family’s apartment. You can see the playground clearly from the front door. He returns to the playground and then, in his head, reconstructs Eun-Yool’s disappearance.

 

 

***

Episode 2 starts with the view of what looks like an abandoned site and three boxes that must have contained the missing children rattling. A woman in white garb comes in anger, yelling at them to be quiet. She shouts that noisy children should be punished. She opens one box and reveals eerie bloodshot eyes. “They shall be killed.”

 

In the inquiry office, Da-Il and Sang-Seob recap their investigation and build a case against Lee Chan-Mi. The motive? Whether it’s a grudge towards the school or the parents or wanting to get someone’s attention or child abuse, there is no evidence that portrays her as such. But they have possible source of information that the police may have missed: the cctv footage from the museum where the school children had gone for a field trip the day before the abduction; Lee Chan-Mi may have let her guard down that day.

Then the doorbell rings and Yeo-Wool shows up to apply for the part-time job position. She gushes about her knowledge of the area and the people due to jobs she’s taken. She learnt martial art which means she can protect herself. Considering she already has multiple jobs, why another job in the inquiry — “It’s ‘detective’!” Da-Il insists — business? Yeo-Wool mentions a house she has bought. A woman of her background (no family, no connection, and no education) should at least own a house to survive. “I’d rather be house poor than just poor,” she says. Her cheerful answer draws a smile.

Why are you here?

Da-Il then gets serious. He knows she comes here because she had seen him in the ballet academy and the kindergarten. There is never a job ads put up anywhere. Now he wants honest and straightforward answer otherwise she won’t have the job. He wants to know why she comes here.

The question rattles her nerves. Yet her answer is cut and next thing we know, Yeo-Wool is doing on site job training.

Da-ll brings her to the museum to get a look at the cctv footage of the field trip day, on 20 August. She poses as an aunt whose nephew was hit by Da-Il that day and demands to see the cctv footage for proof. Da-Il, playing the wronged party, also insists to see it to prove his innocence. Their fight escalates that the museum security lets them see the footage to avoid involving the police. The footage shows Lee Chan-Mi being harsh towards the kids to get them to behave. In particular, Yeo-Wool reads the lip movement which says ‘why are you being noisy, it’s annoying.’

 

At the kindergarten, Lee Chan-Mi asks the director for her paycheck and severance pay, which the director refuses since she quits on her own. But Chan-Mi denies that she resigns willingly. The director chastises her for trying to take advantage of how the way things turn out. “This is because you didn’t take care of the children properly,” the director says.

The director gets up and continues lambasting Chan-Mi which triggers her anger. When the director turns back, Chan-Mi raises both hands to strangle her. But the director’s head swivels and reminds Chan-Mi of the children that she has taken. As the director speaks, a pale woman in red (Lee Ji-Ah) materialises next to Chan-Mi and whispers the director’s words into her ear, telling her to kill the children if they can’t keep quiet.

A whisper…

The suggestion shocks Chan-Mi and brings her back face to face with a baffled and sneering director, implying she’s been hallucinating. The director tells her to clean up the place as she is going away for a day.

 

The museum footage doesn’t prove that Lee Chan-Mi is behind the abductions. Da-Il decides to investigate the kindergarten further. Alone. Even though Yeo-Wool insists on accompanying him, he tells Yeo-Wool to go home. By the time he gets to the kindergarten and jumps through the front gate, it’s already dark.

Da-Il follows the trail of the caution tape that reveals an opening. He finds Bo-Ri further into the underground space. Upstairs, Lee Chan-Mi is trying to talk her other self in the mirror out of killing the children. Yet sound of laughing children is heard, irritating her. She looks determined to carry on.

Further in, Da-Il finds the boxes. One is empty and the others contain Ga-Ram and Ha-Eun. Upstairs, Chan-Mi is torn again in the bathroom. Then she sees, through a hole, that, in the basement, someone has released the children. Da-Il tells the Ga-Ram and Ha-Eun to hold hands and run as fast as they can. Once they meet an adult, they should ask to call their parents and tell the police that Eun-Yool is at school. Chan-Mi’s eye, which has been watching them, turns blood-shot red.

Da-Il enters the school bathroom. He looks around and sees the bathtub curtain. As he goes towards the bathtub, a woman in red appears in one of the mirrors. Da-Il opens the curtain and finds Eun-Yool there, unconscious. As he is calling her name, trying to wake her up, Bo-Ri appears. Something is amiss as Bo-Ri’s eyes is red and she becomes aggressive. Bo-Ri charges forwards and bites Da-Il’s hand. At one point, Da-Il bites back until Bo-Ri backs off and runs away.

He returns to Eun-Yool, trying to carry her up, unaware that Lee Chan-Mi has approached him. Then a hammer slams his head. He falls to the floor. As he struggles to keep his eyes open, he sees Chan-Mi wielding the hammer and, behind her, the woman in red holding a leash and stroking Bo-Ri’s head. The woman smiles and his eyes closes.

 

A figure in hood, most likely Chan-Mi, drags Da-Il’s body through the marsh where he is then dumped and buried. Some time later, the rain showers and the muddy plot is disturbed as Da-Il is struggling to get out of the earth, shouting. Standing, he looks bewildered, trying to make sense of his predicament.


Notes
  • This is a horror thriller that builds the atmosphere properly, not the ‘quiet,quiet, jump!’ variety, which is great. But it’s still too early to tell if the rest of the series will uphold the quality.
  • Until this series comes along, I’ve never been comfortable with the two back-to-back 30 minute episode format. Most of the time, the format breaks the flow. But here, the break is timed nicely to really take a breather.
  • Visiting these episodes to do this recap has heightened my blood pressure and put incredicle strain to my heart that I don’t think I’ll go for details for the rest of the series.
  • Thank goodness the new season of ‘New Journey To The West’ is just around the corner. Even though the teaser and trailer show that they too will dabble in demons and ghosts related theme, hopefully it will be a powerful antidote to the horror thriller in this series.
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