16 March 2018



'The root of all evil...'

I adore a good Asian horror film and this Korean psychological horror flick is one of the good ones. A young-ish couple (well, late thirties or thereabouts) are having trouble conceiving a baby of their own, so they decide to adopt a young 'un from a local orphanage.

They have seemingly no trouble at all cutting through the red tape of bureaucracy, unlike adoptions in real life, lol. In real life, you have to have a letter from the President of your country and a letter from Jesus Christ the Son of God stating categorically that you're a wonderful person before they'll even let you look at a prospective child to adopt, but in the world of film, I guess we can't wait that long.

The couple pick out one they like- a boy- and bring him home. The way it's done, you half expect the orphanage woman to ask if they'd like him wrapped or is he fine as he is, haha. It's a bit like going to the store. Anyway, they take him home and they're thrilled with themselves initially as Jin-Sung, their new six-year-old son, is as cute as a button and bright too.

He's definitely kind of weird, though. He says that his dead mother has come back as a tree, of all things. The acacia (pronounced 'a-kay-sha') tree in his new parents' garden, to be precise. How did she know to choose that tree, of all trees? Is it just the over-active imagination of a child that's at work here? What else could it be? I mean, he's talking rubbish surely, isn't he?

Mind you, a tree would be one of the most beautiful things to come back as if you're going to come back as anything at all. To stand in the fields or the forest or the park or someone's garden for all eternity, growing wiser and more gnarled with the centuries (not to mention wetter from being outdoors in all weathers) wouldn't be so bad, surely? 

How wonderful to be a tree! You'd be a part of Nature, a beautiful, vital and spiritually uplifting part of Nature. Poets would dedicate reams and reams of paper to writing about how great you are. Birds would make their home in you. Schoolchildren would take rubbings of your bark because the science book told them to. Couples would have sex beneath you, so you'd have a ringside seat. Mad people (like me!) would occasionally hug you. Dogs would relieve themselves up agin' you. Who wouldn't want that, to be a vibrant, throbbing part of the community?

I'm supposed to be a Catholic (I'm probably not a great one) so I don't think we're meant to believe in reincarnation and all that jazz. If I do find myself in the queue for reincarnation in the afterlife, however, I'm convinced that I won't come back as anything good or glamorous. No Kim Kardashians, Joanna Lumleys or Meghan Markles for me.

You can bet your bottom dollar it'll be something gross, like someone's diaphragm. That'd be typical of me, having to spend my next life in and out of someone's hairy fanny like a feckin' yo-yo, lol. I've been too lax- or lapsed- a Catholic to qualify for any of the good posts, like Chris THOR Hemsworth's washcloth or Chris Pratt's underpants. All the hot guys these days seem to be called Chris, did you notice that?

Anyway, the acacia tree in Jin-Sung's adoptive parents' garden is dead, devoid of leaves or flowers, and has been so for some time. Jin-Sung is still fascinated with it though. A little time passes and suddenly his adoptive parents realise that they're going to have a baby of their own, much to the delight of Jin-Sung's adoptive maternal grandmother, who's been an absolute bitch to Jin-Sung thus far because he's adopted and not the couple's real son. What an auld wagon. Imagine saying stuff like that in front of a child.

The new baby is a boy as well. Mum and Dad call him Hae-Sung and give him all their attention, to the point where the adopted little boy is feeling left out in the cold, even though he's friendly with a strange little girl from next door and his adoptive paternal grandfather seems to have a bond with him. Still, he misses the attentions of his new parents, who are too busy with the new baby to pay him much mind.

One day, Jin-Sung suddenly isn't there any more. In his mysterious absence, the strangest thing happens to the acacia tree. It bursts into glorious, vibrant life, giving off a heavy, heady scent that can be inhaled all over the house.

What does its sudden riotous blossoming mean? Is it connected to the as-yet unexplained disappearance of little Jin-Sung? Is it anything to do with Mum and Dad's suddenly fractured marriage, and Dad's shocking sexual and physical violence towards the wife he's supposed to love? And what the hell has happened to Maternal Granny and Paternal Grand-dad? And how does the strange little girl from next door fit into the mix? There are secrets in the family now...

This film is a slow burner, with a nice build-up of tension and atmosphere leading inexorably to the chillingly effective pay-off. I loved the look of the film, with all the trees and grass and nearby forests that could be seen from the windows of the house. An eerie soundtrack completes the package.

If you like horror films where a crazed hillbilly murderer is running around madly stabbing or shooting everyone and there's nothing but loud screaming and clanging, clashing soundtracks to ratchet up the hideous racket, well, fair enough. I like that kinda movie sometimes too.

ACACIA is more for the folks who like a nice subtle psychological horror with a good in-built eerieness, a film that takes a while to make its point but the journey is as good as the climax. I loved this one myself anyway. If you're anything like me, you will too.

PS, regarding re-incarnation. Try to get your name onto a list in advance of death and put yourself forward for the good jobs. That way you hopefully won't get stuck being Kim Jong-Un's under-boob anti-sweat cream or the paste that keeps Donald Trump's toupee in place. Can I be killed for saying that? I can? Ah Jaysis. For feck's sake. Whatever happened to free speech...?


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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