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Review: 29 February (2006)

If you want to celebrate Leap Year Day by watching a movie, like we do with so many other “holidays,” the choices are few. There are apparently several sitcom episodes (30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, The Middle, and Modern Family) that I probably saw over the years (since I watched all of those shows) and found delightful, but they aren’t movies.

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I certainly wasn’t going to watch Leap Year (2010), although it stars Amy Adams and, more importantly to me, Matthew Goode (good, indeed.) With its plot point regarding Leap Year, I suppose I could have watched The Pirates of Penzance (1983), but I recently watched an old favorite, The Pirate Movie (1982), for the Diecast Movie Review Podcast, so I don’t want to steal any thunder from that.

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Warning! Spoilers ahead…

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Ultimately, I managed to locate on YouTube a South Korean horror film from 2006 called, 29 February. With its simple story about a curse that happens every four years on February 29, I expected the style and atmosphere of late-era J-horror to be its biggest selling point. Oddly, it wasn’t; instead, a “did she or didn’t she” twist that you may or may not see coming, was the highlight for me.

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A friend that works at Moonkyung Mental Hospitial invites a writer for a science column that reports only on the facts to interview a patient. She’s an insomniac named Ji-yeon that hasn’t slept in months, convinced that the ghost of a murderer that died 12 years ago (on February 29) wants to kill her because she saw her cursed face.

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Most of the movie is a flashback of Ji-yeon telling her story. She works at a tollbooth where a prison bus crashed and all passengers escaped but one. It’s assumed she burned inside the bus; however, no body was ever found. As February 29 approaches, a mysterious traveler hands her a bloody ticket and Ji-yeon learns the next day there was a murder at another tollbooth.

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At first, Ji-yeon believes the prisoner never died and comes out of hiding on the anniversary of the crash to go on a killing spree. However, as her friends start seeing Ji-yeon in other locations, and she herself sees a woman dressed like her everywhere she goes, sometimes driving a mysterious black car, Ji-yeon begins to believe she is being haunted by a ghost.

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The movie straddles an interesting line where the solution to the mystery could be either natural or supernatural. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been conditioned to believe it’s the latter. When you start to think about it, though, the former could be more interesting, especially since the filmmaking style leans more heavily toward the physical, focusing on a huge knife and giallo-like, blood-splattering murders.

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If that’s the case, there’s an obvious twist ahead. First, you think it’s coming, but when the movie seemingly concludes, you think you were misled. That’s when Ji-yeon’s story is told from a different point of view and you have your big “a-ha” moment. Somehow the details of this version of the story answer questions you didn’t know you had during the first time you heard it.

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Still, though, the definitive answer remains ambiguous, which is how it should be, in my opinion. I didn’t expect a post-credits scene; however, there is a brief clip at the very end that suggests a third variation of the story. It’s a super-effective jump scare, one of a handful throughout the entire movie. Overall, there are scares regardless of what you think is really happening.

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Watching on YouTube on a big television screen, it’s hard to judge the quality of the film. More times than not, it looked like video rather than film, but the use of the camera suggested a bigger budget. This is why I’m largely focusing on the story and plot elements here. 29 February is not the best J-horror I’ve seen. Neither is it the best psychological thriller I’ve seen. But the combination of elements makes it an excellent option for Leap Year Day viewing.


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