Published Sep 26, 2010With its glossy sheen and distinctively voyeuristic composition peeking through windows and doorways, this remake of Kim Ki-young's acclaimed domestic 1960 thriller of the same name differs significantly from its predecessor, amending not only style and sexual tension, but updating the narrative and character dynamics to have less of a Hand the Rocks the Cradle, sexist theology. It's not the makings of classic cinema, being too smutty and histrionic to stand out in a modern Korean context, but it's a cleverly shot, fun, almost European parable of class system warfare and gender politics.
Dumping a lot of the original's of house-building stress and music teacher woes, The Housemaid (2010) starts with titular labourer Eun-yi (Do-yeon Jeon) becoming acquainted with her responsibilities at her new job working for the rich, preoccupied Hoon (Jung-Jae Lee) and his very pregnant wife, Haera (Seo Woo). Helping look after their older child, when not cleaning, serving and washing her employer's hair, she exudes a naïve sensibility that exacerbates the degradation of much of her work.
Perhaps this is why her reluctant acceptance of sexual relations with the pompous patriarch — flexing his tiny muscles at his reflection, Patrick Bateman-style, while she blows him — seems almost like a natural progression of her existing duties.
As the plot progresses, this sexual tryst acts merely as a catalyst for the real tension and conflict of the film, which stems from the rage and passive-aggressive (turned aggressive-aggressive) response of the pregnant wife and her meddling mother. While still not exactly an empowering depiction of female survival, it's interesting how the man of the house does little more than work, screw and pretentiously swish around wine in his mouth while the women manipulate every given scenario to work to their advantage.
With an early assault paying homage to The Omen and the climax jumping over the top into surrealist insanity, this could easily be classified as erudite trash. But every once in a while it's fun to treat yourself with something seedy and superficial. (Mirovision)