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Ha Jung-woo to make horror debut with ‘The Closet’

While the last film of 2019 featuring Ha Jung-woo as the lead act, “Ashfall,” still tops box offices, the actor is making a swift return with the first horror movie of the year -- and also the first of his career.

“As it’s my first attempt at the genre, acting surprised was the most difficult part of making the movie. You’ll be seeing me act with about 13 to 15 types of surprised faces in the film,” Ha said at a press event for “The Closet” on Thursday in Seoul.

Screen grab of
Screen grab of "The Closet" teaser video (CJ Entertainment)

Kim Kwang-bin, acclaimed for directing and scriptwriting, is likewise making his feature film debut with “The Closet,” after winning prizes on his previous short films.

“The Closet” is a story of a father, Sang-won, who loses his daughter inside his own house and struggles to get her back. Sang-won, played by Ha, was trying to get closer with his daughter, Ina, at their new home in the countryside where they had moved after his wife died in an accident.

“It was easy for me to play the role of a father, even though I have no experience in raising a child, since Sang-won, a busy architect, was not too devoted to his family. I could relate with Sang-won’s clumsiness as a father as he tried to approach his daughter after the wife’s death,” Ha said.

Kim Nam-gil, winner of the 2019 SBS best actor award, plays the other lead character, Kyung-hoon, an exorcist who teams up with Sang-won in looking for the lost child. Kyung-hoon approaches Sang-won, saying the closet inside Ina’s room is behind her disappearance.

Kim Nam-gil (Yonhap)
Kim Nam-gil (Yonhap)

The story stems from the director’s own creepy feelings when he caught a glimpse of the inside of his closet, visible between the slightly open doors, in the middle of the night.

“For a moment, I felt as though someone might be behind the doors in the dark. We often experience an unexplainable and mysterious chill, and I thought many viewers would be able to relate to the story if made into a movie,” the director said.

According to the director, although the story revolves around a Western object, the closet, he tried to tell the story differently from horror movies of the West.

“We specifically state ‘The Closet’ is a mystery-drama film because it centers on the topic of family and portrays the society that we live in,” the director said. “Even with the occult elements, we took into account many different folk religions and avoided focusing on a specific belief.”

“The Closet” poster (CJ Entertainment)
“The Closet” poster (CJ Entertainment)

Ha and the director are teaming up again after a gap of nearly 15 years. The two worked together in 2005 on director Yoon Jong-bin’s “The Unforgiven,” in which Ha starred and Kim was an audio engineer.

Ha, who also took part in the production of “The Closet,” said Kim was a director well suited for mystery thrillers.

“When I first read the script, I could feel the director’s affection for the genre,” Ha said. “Since it was a story and a character that I had never attempted in the past, I thought it would be great to work with Kim (Kwang-bin) in making the movie together.”

According to the actors and the director, the movie was made through tight cooperation among the three, and the close-knit chemistry of the trio was evident even during Thursday’s press event.

“The actors and I communicated consistently throughout the production, discussing how to make every scene,” director Kim said. Ha never missed a meeting during the four-month production period and Kim Nam-gil’s ideas that were used in the movie are countless, the director added.

Heo Yul, who played the role of a child possessed by demonic spirit in the tvN drama series “The Guest,” stars as Ina.

“The Closet” hits local theaters in February.

By Choi Ji-won (