I’m a wimp. Horror movies scare the life out of me. But thrillers are a different story. I can stomach them provided they’re not excessively brutal, gory, or macabre. Thus my initial interest in The Village: Achiara’s Secret. Besides intrigued by the premise, of a small village with a string of mysteries and secrets despite its low crime rate and seemingly peaceful front, i was sold on the cast.
I’ve liked Moon Geun-young since Autumn in My Heart days although this is only my third project of her after Cinderella’s Sister. Yook Sung-jae made me love Gong Tae-kwang to bits in School 2015 that i’m plain excited to see him in another project. Surprisingly, it isn’t another high school drama though i could totally see him typecast in teenage roles for a while especially since he’s still in his early 20s. Shin Eun-kyung was refreshing in Oh My Ghostess. There were only a few names i paid attention to during the early casting news but i liked what i read.
As for teasers, i usually only check one or two just to get a gist of the show without getting spoiled too much, which probably explains why i got the (incorrect) impression that Achiara would be a creepy and chilling mystery drama. Up to episode 6, i can say it’s not nearly as scary as feared that i thought i could watch it at night with lights off… until the hair-raising scenes/moments transpire and give me complete goosebumps. The early episodes have more of those spooky scenes, now there’s only one per hour. I also wish PD-nim could go easy on the eerie scores used for creating tension and building up suspense as it can easily slip into horror territory — my heart can’t take it!
With that being said: never again will i watch you after dusk!
Achiara is such a small village that the residents know one another albeit only on a superficial level that it’s rather impossible to keep a secret. Therefore, what’s more unsettling than the discovery of an unidentified skeleton after two years is the fact that nobody has an idea as to who she was when there was a person gone missing in the last two years, yet neither unreported nor looked for. That’s most likely because she was deemed an outsider. The mystery stems deeper than the who, which is determined pretty quickly, but also how she died and then why she was silenced, as her death appears unnatural. And since there are lots of secrets need unraveling, i wish the characters could piece the puzzle faster; the show’s pace is too slow for my liking.
For now, all signs point to Kim Hye-jin (Jang Hee-jin) as the dead woman. She’s the infamous new art teacher who’s having a blatant affair with the councilman (Jung Sung-mo, who’s left a bad taste since Baker King). Both parties are at fault in adultery that i don’t feel sorry for Hye-jin; she provokes Yoon Ji-sook (Shin Eun-kyung) first even though my opinion may change once we get more context and backstory. Naturally, Ji-sook seems the one wanting Hye-jin dead the most even though nearly everybody else gives off similar suspicious air that the culprit can be anybody.
I for one like it when characters are in the grey zone, that no one is pure angel or evil, which grants viewers an endless game of suspecting everyone and second-guessing their true nature. This drama certainly is full of red herrings, which can be frustrating as well as fun to follow; let’s see how far one’s outward appearance is genuine, or how much their words are veiled.
Cuz, how can you vouch for the village’s safety when newcomer is stalked and chased the moment she sets foot on the soil? If i were Han So-yoon (Moon Geun-young), i would make a quick exit shortly after experiencing those uncanny happenings no matter how big the paycheck is or how strong the pull is — ain’t that strange that you feel this foreign town is calling for you? I think there’s possibility that Achiara’s low crime rate isn’t because everybody gets along well but because the higher-ups cover up anything and everything to make an impeccable track record, like the way Councilman Seo instructs the police to rule the death an accident.
But So-yoon has her own mystery to solve: why like her older sister, she was reported dead in the car crash? Why her grandma separated the two, is non-blood relation the main reason? Or even why grandma committed suicide? If anything, i wish So-yoon were quicker on the uptake because now she feels like the outsider in her own drama. Unni survived the accident yet there’s no records under her name, which suggests she lives under a new name. Also, the similarities Hye-jin bears to Unni — the necklace, born in same year, looking for her dongsaeng, coming to Achiara (the last person to come before her) — are too much of a coincidence she shouldn’t need a solid evidence to make the connection. And it’s not until she connects the obvious dots that she’ll be fully involved and emotionally invested in the main case.
What makes mystery thrillers appealing is the countless theories and speculations to be formed before the big reveal, leading to rich meaty discussion. As much as i’m itching to know who did it, i find myself more interested in the why (as the adultery doesn’t seem to be the cause) and the motives Hye-jin had coming into and getting entangled in her hometown. And then, why being an Achiara person seems to be such a big deal? The question that’s been niggling my mind since the start is why all of these occur just now, two years after the time of death? Is she waiting for So-yoon to come? I mean, Yoo-na (Ji-sook’s daughter, Ahn Seo-hyun) suddenly starts seeing ghosts again, and is only able to see her beloved Saem…
At this rate, it’s easier to list who seems to be in the clear. I’d name the unexpectedly shrewd Inspector Han (Kim Min-jae) and his chirpy yet dim junior Park Woo-jae (Yook Sung-jae), Ga-young’s Mom (Inspector Han’s sister?) who knows more secrets than she lets on, Walnut Agassi who turns out much less creepy now he was than at the beginning, and Councilman Seo since he doesn’t even know Hye-jin is dead although her disappearance didn’t bother him.
I’d love to put Ki-hyun (Ohn Joo-wan) on this list too, especially after he asks if Dad had a hand in her death, but i can’t shake his conflicting self. For example, when Yoo-na vows to catch the (serial) killer, the camera pans to him, as if showing us that he’s the guy. Then, the way he smirks before pointing out there’s no bracelet on Hye-jin when he last saw her is downright unnerving. I swear it was a happy smile! I know these things can be a false lead, and i want him to be innocent because he seems a genuinely nice guy, even though he somehow decides to withhold information from So-yoon that Hye-jin IS Unni.
Argh, nobody in this drama is completely trustworthy I wonder if the cast themselves know who the culprit is. Seriously, do they??
Due to the rather slow pacing, The Village: Achiara’s Secret isn’t too gripping or engaging a watch. It isn’t killing me with the mystery, neither is it so intriguing that i look forward to the next installment. But there’s nothing off-putting either that makes me want to stop watching, like gaping plot holes, infuriating materials, or maddening turn of events. Not yet. So i’ll remain cautiously optimistic with the show.