Not everyone wants escapism in a pandemic. One of the films on our radar that we’re most excited for is Beauty Water, a grisly psychological horror from South Korea. After building hype on a festival run that included Annecy and Fantasia, the animated feature is due to open this month in its home country and elsewhere.
The film tells the story of Yaeji, a woman with low self-esteem who uses an elixir — the titular “beauty water” — to lose weight and beautify herself, then faces some chilling side effects. The narrative serves as a grim satire of oppressive beauty standards in South Korea, which (by some estimates) has the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita in the world. Here’s the trailer:
Beauty Water is the feature directorial debut of Kyung-hun Cho, CEO of Studio Animal (which is producing the film with SS Animent). The studio, which made a splash with the series Ghost Messenger, specializes in works for older audiences. For Beauty Water, the filmmakers adapted a hit web comic by Seong-dae Oh, which can be read here.
Originally due to hit Korean theaters today, Beauty Water has been delayed — along with many other films — due to a resurgence of the coronavirus in the country. The capital Seoul has been placed under level-two (out of three) restrictions as the infection rate hits six-month highs, and seating capacities in cinemas have been reduced. Screen Daily reports that the producers still intend to release the film later in the month.
The filmmakers’ ambitions don’t stop at home. In an interview with Asian Movie Pulse, producer Byung-jin Jeon said: “We started the project around six years ago, when China started to invest a lot of money in Korean content. We noticed two popular genres: the first being soft, sexy comedy; the second covering horror, thriller, and mystery. We decided to go for a horror angle, so that the film could be more marketable internationally.” While it’s unclear whether there’s Chinese money in this film, it’s worth noting that the web comic was a hit in China.
Beauty Water is also slated to open in Australia and New Zealand on September 17, Taiwan on September 18, and Singapore in mid-September. This kind of simultaneous overseas release is rare for a South Korean animated feature. As yet, though, there’s no sign of a U.S. distributor. Let’s hope that changes.