Updated: Jul 2
Doorlock was a blockbuster hit in 2018, and remains at the top of many "best of" lists because it accurately—and disturbingly—captured the horrifying female experience of being watched, and stalked.
Is self-isolation testing your sanity? Is the pandemic driving you up the wall?
Do you want to make it worse?
Then we have the perfect k-movie for you.
Doorlock is the bleak Korean adaptation of Spain's Sleep Tight, and tells the story a 30-something working woman in Seoul who has to deal with a dangerous stalker. True, Korean stalker movies are a dime a dozen, and an alarming number of k-movies are about serial killers and their crimes against women, but what makes Doorlock truly extraordinary is the director's ability to create such a stressful and bleak atmosphere with no special effects and nearly no predictable jump scares. This just goes to show how far directorial skill and a razor-sharp lead actress (Gong Hyo-jin, in one of her finest performances) can go to craft a suspenseful story as well as any other big-budget ensemble horror flick can.
If Kim Ji Young: Born 1982 laid out the hundred misogynistic cuts Korean and East Asian women face on a daily basis, Doorlock takes it to the next, incredibly horrifying level while still remaining strangely relatable. Any woman who has been hounded, intimidated, harassed, and stalked just because she's been nice to a man... well, this movie is a symbolic picture of that experience. Whatever naive notions women hold about personal security and safety are easily shattered by showing how very easy it is to invade women's intimate spaces, especially by rage-fueled, entitled men. It is the blatant mockery it makes of that naïveté that successfully fuels this movie's tighter-than-a-drum pace, and why it stays on your mind long after the credits roll.
Doorlock is a magnificent demonstration of how skillful minimalism can still stress out an audience. There are no special effects here, nor monsters, and there is barely a soundtrack to pace your reactions to, but it still is able to accurately frame the horror that most women have experienced at least once in their lives.
Now, it's nearly impossible to write about this movie without giving away a spoiler, but as a group who has watched over a ton of suspense movies from Korea, trust us on this: If you want to experience what amazing suspense and masterful control of atmosphere feels like (and if you want to be more stressed than you already are), then we unhesitatingly offer Doorlock for your consideration this pandemic season.
Stream: If you are a fan of minimalist Asian suspense and horror. Be advised though, that because the story is about stalking and harassment, it may be triggering for some audiences. For women who have had horrible experiences of stalking or assault in real life, you might want to do a hard pass on this one.
Skip: If you prefer effects-heavy/splatterpunk/gore-driven horror.