Mi-sook (Shim Hye-jin) and Do-il (Kim Jin-keun) are a couple who desperately wants a child but are unable to conceive. When Mi-sook meets a quiet six year old boy called Jin-sung, who draws some moody drawings of a tree, she becomes fascinated by him, and the couple adopts him.
The boy is a little strange and very quiet, but he soon finds a place in the little family. However, the boy seems to have an unsettling connection to the Acacia tree in front of the house.
Everything seems to be going well, until it suddenly turns out that Mi-sook is pregnant. Her mother immediately discards Jin-sung because hes not their real son. When the baby is born Jin-sung acts more and more strange. He even attempts to kill the infant. The tension in the little family soon builds to a breaking point...
Compared to the recent wave of Asian horror film Acacia may seem trivial, but then lets not compare it to those films.
This is a quiet and puzzling film. It doesnt invite its audience to be sucked into the story. Rather it seems almost as if the film deliberately tries to keep us at an arms length. This is not helped by the fact that some details in the story simply arent shown or explained properly, thus creating a certain level of confusion until you realize whats going on. But its not a good kind of confusion. Its the kind where you have the feeling that youre missing other things while you catch up. Thats how I felt anyway. Also the camera lingers forever on things that arent important, leaving you to think that they are. Again this causes a bad kind of confusion.
Though this is clearly a horror film, it retains a rather quiet tone most of the time thats likely to put some viewers off. Characters spend entire scenes just staring into thin air, and more often than not a question from one character to another remains unanswered. The film needs a little more - for lack of a better word - life. Its simply too cold.
Had the film been warmer and a little more accessible in the beginning, it probably would have worked better. That way, all the bad things that happen later would have been put in contrast.
Take for example Poltergeist (1982/USA). This film uses the first act to show the family when they are happy and when everything is normal, which only makes everything that follows that much harder to watch. But Acacia is so bleak and strange from the beginning that the film really doesnt have any place to go from there.
And speaking of Poltergeist if you thought the tree in that one was scary, you aint seen nothing yet. Which bring us to the visual aspects of Acacia: The cinematograpgy is stunning. The Acacia tree looks more and more menacing each time we see it, and towards the end it almost feels like a character.
Theres also some very beautiful dream sequences but revealing too much about those would spoil parts of the film.
Bottomline: Despite its flaws I still enjoyed the film. Acacia is not perfect by any means, but it has enough going for it to warrant a second viewing. In fact a second viewing, with the added bonus of not being confused about any aspects of the story, might actually make for a better experience.