Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 04/22/04 09:38:55

"Creepy Kid & Haunted Tree"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

If you saw "Acacia" described as reminiscient of William Friedkin's "The Guardian" and Joseph Ruben's "The Good Son", nobody would blame you for skipping it without a second thought. But not only is "Acacia" considerably better than either of those movies, it's also quite reminiscent of "The Changeling" and "The Others"... in a good way.

So clearly Acacia is not about to win any awards for originality, and that's just fine. Horror flicks have been borrowing from one another since Day One; just do the borrowing with a certain amount of style and sense, and the horror fans will back your product.

On paper it doesn't sound like much: A childless young couple adopts the wrong kid from a local orphanage, the tot displays a disconcerting tendency for hanging out with the big TREE in the front yard, and before too long...yep, dead bodies start popping up all over the place.

A Korean import from director Ki-Hyung Park (Secret Tears), Acacia plainly borrows a little spice from a variety of sources, yet the end result is a truly creepy, albeit quietly and deliberately paced, little horror tale. The mood is set early: This is a mellow and understated creeper of a ghost story. The adorable adopted kid seems a bit...weird from the word go, but things get even more unsettling once Mom & Dad end up pregnant with their own bundle of joy.

Were Acacia intent on being a rockin' shockin' horror movie, much of the 'tree stuff' would come off as more than a little ridiculous (not unlike what happened with Friedkin's silly Guardian flick), but Park is clearly out to create something more psychologically spooky than it is simply shocking. The score by Hyeon-je Oh is absolutely brilliant, a dark and moody backbone to the film's freakier moments.

Suffice to say that the adopted orphan boy has a disturbing 'kinship' to the gnarled tree outside and that those who cross the kid soon end up on the wrong end of the bark. The somewhat patchwork combination of disparate inspirations gels together with surprising smoothness, resulting in a fine little gothic ghost story that delivers a few unexpected surprises amidst the enjoyably comfortable surroundings.

Most Asian horror movies that I see (and usually enjoy) are fairly packed with 'slow spots'. That's still true in the case of "Acacia" but this time around the 'slow spots' are more creepy and compelling than they are yawn-inducing.

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