Body count: 4
Entertainment factor: 3/5
Eek factor: 2/5
Ooh factor: 1/5
Ouch factor: 3/5
Film Elements
  • crazy people
  • Creepy Crawly Craptosis
If you want gore, you won’t find it here. There is a bit of face-carving, but not nearly as much as the box promises. Instead, Cinderella struggles along the psychological path of Janghwa, Hongryeon.

Yunhi is a successful plastic surgeon with a beautiful daughter, Hyunsu. Yunhi is determined to make sure that Hyunsu stays beautiful. She gives her daughter frequent facial masks, skin treatments, and the like to stave off the first hints of old age as long as possible. Hyunsu has a healthy self-image and finds the procedure irritating, but she goes along with her mother. Hyunsu is the envy of her friends for having a plastic surgeon in the family. They all have something about their faces that they want to fix, and one by one they come to Yunhi for surgery.
Starting in the surgery room, weird things start happening to the girls who have been operated on by Yunhi. First, it’s the ghost crawling across the floor, under the operating table. Then, it’s their reflections, cut up and deformed. The sight is so horrifying that Sukyung tries to cut her own face off. Hyewon and Seungeun slice each other up in a “let’s make you look pretty” stupor. Even Hyunsu, who hasn’t gone under the knife, starts hearing hisses of “I’ll make you pretty.”
Hyunsu always wondered about that basement room that she wasn’t allowed to go in. Putting two and two together, she’s determined to discover what her mother has been doing, and what she has been hiding.
Cinderella, like so many Asian horror films these days, suffers from Creeping Crawly Craptosis. It doesn’t need a long-haired ghost pulling herself along the floor, but they’ve stuck one in (complete with eyeball close-up) for effect. The ghost is really a non-character; she’s just there to provide some visual shock.
Where is the curse or grudge here? Is it the plastic surgery facilities that are haunted? The house? The mother? My answer: none of the above. The girls see their faces deformed as a result of the paranoia of “Am I pretty enough yet?” Even though they’ve had surgery to fix what they perceive as flaws, their new faces don’t bring the self-confidence they expected. Instead, they feel even more insecure.

Rumor has it that plastic surgery is becoming frighteningly common in South Korea. I don’t know how true that is, but Cinderella’s commentary about beauty (and the pursuit of) ought to resound in any country that has access to plastic surgery.
Yunhi is actually a pretty complex character. On the one hand, she wants a beautiful daughter—any daughter will do. On the other hand, she’s not willing to abandon her ugly offspring totally. In her own twisted way, she tries to make her deformed daughter happy (short of, you know, letting anyone know she exists). She has plenty of toys; even a set of a series of custom-made replacement faces. She wants a birthday party; Yunhi tries to give her one. Yes, it’s still a messed-up situation, but the mother’s affections are misplaced, not absent. She loves the first daughter for being her daughter; she loves the second daughter for her appearance. And somewhere during the film, she seems to get the idea that she might be able to combine the two girls into one.
If there’s one thing that Cinderella could have done without (besides the ghost), it’s the old woman’s plot thread. Some may appreciate knowing where, exactly, Yunhi got Replacement Daughter from, but it’s really not very important. That aspect of the story is never fully explored, just mentioned.

I think that most of the reviews out there don’t give Cinderella enough credit. In an attempt to be creepy enough, it trips over its own ghostie—but it doesn’t fall flat on its face. In today’s world, where there’s a procedure to fix any vanity, Cinderella is relevant. If you’re looking for a gory rush, you won’t find much here beyond squishy cutting sound effects. If you feel like thinking a bit, you ought to get more than you expect out of this film.