Warning: this review contains mentions of murders and blood that are shown in the movie. If these aren’t your cup of tea, please close the thread.

October 31st is coming in three days. You plan on spending the day watching movies, ones that will make you scared enough to call your Halloween celebrations successful. Maybe you want to share this moment with some friends or family members. However, you know some of them would rather watch a rom-com and try to forget everything about blood and murders instead. Do not worry, “The Clue” will be the perfect middle-ground for all of you.

The Clue“, also known as “4th Period Mystery“, is a South Korean thriller directed by Lee Sang-yong. It was released in 2009, and its cast includes Yoo Seung-ho, a former child actor who recently starred in the drama “My Strange Hero“, and Kang So-ra, who was then making her first steps into the entertainment industry. The movie is entirely centered on the students and teachers of Insu High School, a fictitious institution that will turn into a crime scene after a few minutes of viewing.

Han Jun-hoon (Yoo Seung-ho) and Kim Tae-gyu (Cho Sang-geun) are rivals. The former, who is the school’s best student, gets himself into a fight with his nemesis after seeing his inappropriate behavior towards a female classmate. Before they really get to harm each other, they get caught by one of their teachers, who assigns them to class duties as punishment. Tension keeps rising between the two of them until Tae-gyu challenges Jun-hoon to stab him. The star student gives in, grabs a knife, and raises it above Tae-gyu‘s head. He stops himself before reaching him, but it’s too late—a girl has already taken a picture of the scene. After spending some time in the bathroom to calm himself, Jun-hoon returns to his seemingly empty classroom and finds the dead body of Tae-gyu, who was stabbed multiple times. Before he gets accused of murdering his rival, the teenager needs to find the real culprit—and he only has until the end of the 4th period to do so.

While reading the plot, you would think that Jun-hoon is the main character of “The Clue“. However, the top student would be entirely powerless without the help of Lee Da-jung (Kang So-ra), a shy girl who is made an outcast because of her hair (she hides her face behind it, earning herself the nickname of “Curtain”) and her love for true crime stories. Da-jung discovers Jun-hoon next to Tae-gyu‘s dead body but refuses to believe he is the culprit. Instead of jumping to conclusions, she decides to use her knowledge in murder cases to help him avoid unfair punishment. She is the movie’s true hero and the one who deserves most of the viewer’s attention.

After a shocking scene at the beginning, followed by twenty minutes of background information—introducing Do-il (Jun-hoon’s best friend and sidekick character) along with various teachers and students—the pace of the movie finally hastens and doesn’t let the spectator breathe until the very last minutes. If the sight of blood doesn’t make you shiver, don’t expect to be scared while watching “The Clue“. However, you will soon forget your disappointment, and find yourself caught in the story, searching for the culprit together with Jun-hoon and Da-jung. As the movie doesn’t reveal much about the characters and keeps the biggest clues for the last fifteen minutes, you will constantly change your mind and will never feel bored—maybe except during the countless minutes showing the characters’ running around the entire school.

The Clue” is far from being an innovative movie. The plot is centered on a student getting murdered in his classroom—the theme was and is still used over and over again in Asian thrillers/horror movies. While we get to have a glimpse into the bullying and misjudging that can happen in any high school, it needs to be mentioned that the characters’ personality traits are over-exaggerated, to the point that they sometimes become unrealistic. It is useful when the movie wants to be more light-hearted but eventually becomes an issue during key moments. Despite Kang So-ra‘s best efforts, no one will believe that a teenage girl can act so cold-hearted and “professional” in front of her murdered classmate—no matter her love for crime stories. However, if we keep their young age in mind, she and Yoo Seung-ho are still impressive in their portrayal of their characters. Their acting is good enough to make viewers buy Jun-hoon and Da-jung‘s quest to find the killer and believe in their love story—which is a miracle since they are literally juggling with both “tasks” in less than forty minutes. It almost made me forget the clichés used to show Da-jung‘s evolution from an awkward outcast to the top student’s girlfriend… almost, but not completely.

If you like paying attention to cinematography, you will probably be pleased with the way the characters’ theories are depicted throughout the movie. While it will make you believe it’s useful in finding the murderer’s identity, it will actually confuse you and lead you to wrong conclusions. A few beautiful shots manage to make up for the lack of breathtaking filming locations and impressive special effects.

All in all, I don’t recommend watching “The Clue” if you are looking for a very serious thriller that will make you grab the edge of your seat in fear or anticipation. However, it will be a pleasant experience for anyone looking for a mix of a crime story, comedy, and romance—as well as theories to share with friends until the murderer’s identity is revealed.

Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Cinematography: 6/10
Cast: 8/10