At the end of a comment I made on a blog post from last week, I happened to mention that Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Red Shoes (1845) was adapted into a horror film by South Korean director Kim Yong-gyun, who was inspired by Andersen’s tale. After I posted the comment, I actually watched the film and realized that this reimagining encapsulated a lot of the same themes as the fairy tale, and even subtly included moral messages.
The film revolves around a recently separated wife and her daughter. The mother (Sun-Jae) stumbles upon a pair of cursed pink high heels, which are so intriguing that she snatches them off of the subway platform and runs home with them. She soon comes to find out that her daughter (Tae-Soo) has become frighteningly obsessive over the shoes, which leads her mother to do some investigation of the cause of the shoes power. She then discovers that although the original owner of the shoes escape from harm, the person who takes them will die with their feet chopped off.
Throughout the film, there is a lot of conflict between the mother and daughter. Tae-Soo knew about her father’s infidelity and immediately began to disobey her mother. The shoes, acting as a catalyst for Tae-Soo’s erratic behavior, push things farther (and add an essential horrifying element). The shoes also affect the character’s normal psyche by compelling them to act outside of their nature. The mother becomes more and more aggressive with her increasingly rebellious child.
Morality comes along after the shoes do the bidding. The shoes act in revenge against the “thief,” and forces them to repent for their sin (via payment by bloodshed). This is not too far from Andersen’s tale, which ends with young Karen having her feet chopped off by the executioner. Towards the end of the film, the mother realizes that this–in theory–inanimate object has warped her sense of priority: as a mother, as a friend, and as a human being.
Sun-jae: [Angry] Mommy loves Tae-soo very much… But mommy really hates when Tae-soo lies.
Tae-su: [Crying] It’s not a lie! Daddy really came! He said he’s too cold and to take him out!
Sun-jae: [Angry] Don’t lie to me!… I told you that daddy couldn’t come here. How can he? I told you he can’t come here, so how could he? How can he?… Why did you lie? Why did you lie?
I was overall impressed with how the film combined elements from a child’s fairy tale into a more adult themed movie. Although both versions can be considered “horror,” the familial themes and morals faced are still relevant today.