When I saw the trailer to Under the Black Moonlight my mind placed it on a “maybe list.:” I thought, “This one’s a possibility. I might decide to see it sometime.” Then, while browsing through an article about short webdramas, the name came up again. Nine episodes, each ten minutes long – that’s less than a full-length movie. Okay, I’ll bite.
The story is about an overly possessive mother, the fearful son she controls, and his girlfriend who seems to have come back from the dead a year after her passing.
The Western Painting Expert, The Prince of the Art University, is Lee Kang-Woo. Among the younger female students he is known as the human lottery because he comes from a good family, is handsome, and has a nice personality. He loves Song Wol-Ha and is very willing to spend the rest of his life with her, however when his mother is around Wol-Ha is completely ignored.
Song Wol-Ha is a pretty, friendly, kind young woman who is a Western Painting Major at the Art University. She realizes it will be impossible to get Kang-Woo’s mother’s permission for them to be in an official relationship and reluctantly breaks things off with him. Her single mother is completely devastated, and all her friends crushed, when the police report Wol-Ha died in a car accident. However, her mother is skeptical and expects foul play.
Han Seung-Geum prefers to be alone and some students say there’s a dark and creepy aura about him. Although he’s not seen in class, all his tests and reports receive and A+. His nickname is the Grim Reaper of the Arts University and people whisper that if you cross him he will certainly take revenge. Rumor has it he is a psychopath who won’t let go of girls once he sets his sight on them. As an artist he is quite amazing, able to perfectly sketch the Venus de Milo sculpture in a short time just from memory. They say this young man is a complete mystery.
Kang-Woo’s ill mother has had seven surgeries and wants to create a perfect world for her son before she passes away. She has forced Kang-Woo to learn the family business before he even graduates from the university and tells him she has sacrificed her whole life for her son. She considers his girlfriend to be just another one of his “toys” and has always insisted on being the one and only precious thing in Kang-Woo’s life.
Jin Joo-Hye is the happy, outgoing, new student at the university- a perfect replica of Wol-Ha – who shows up a year after Wol-Ha’s death. She joins the art club despite the fact that she has never been to an arts academy before and her artistic skills are quite lacking. Her English results are what got her admitted to the school. Because her father owned a small restaurant in Canada she had considered being a Food Nutritionist major but switched to being a Western Arts major because she claims to “like the smell of the paint” – something Wol-Ha had enjoyed, as well.
Twenty-five year old Nam Tae-Hyun (better known as Taehyun), the man who plays the part of poor, tormented Lee Kang-Woo, began his entertainment career as a singer/songwriter. From competing in the reality program Win: Who Is Next, he became a member of the group Winner for which he co-composed three songs for their debut album which topped several charts. In 2015 he made his acting debut in the webdrama Midnight Girl. In October of 2016 the entertainment company he was with announced he would be stopping promotional activities in order to receive mental health treatment. The following month he withdrew from Winner and terminated his contract with YG Entertainment. The next day, on his Instagram account, he posted a handwritten letter apologizing to his fans and thanking them with a promise to return. True to his word, he surfaced a few months later with his new band, South Club. He was a radio DJ for just shy of a year, quitting only to focus more on his music. Sadly, after the death of actress/singer/model Choi Jin-Ri, better know as Sulli, (on October 14, 2019) Taehyun asked netizens to stop their cyber bullying (police determined her death was a suicide likely caused by cyber bullying) and stated he had previously attempted suicide. Poor guy. I wish him well.
I was surprised to find out Kim Soo-Yun, the actress who plays both Song Wol-Ha and Jin Joo-Hye, is 30 years old! Put her in a high school girl’s uniform and she could sincerely pass for half that! Soo-Yun attended Do Geum Women’s University as a Broadcasting major in the Entertainment Department. She made her acting debut in the 2011 TV drama Real School! I think the woman is absolutely gorgeous. No wonder she’s also a model.
The bulk of the story’s suspense comes when the seven art student friends go to Kang-Woo’s family holiday villa to commemorate the founding of their club and, while there, separate, each going off on their own to draw. Of course the huge mansion is secluded in the woods. Could it be located anywhere else?
All the screaming and crying in this show is terribly acted and that’s sad because that’s what the show counts on to make the audience nervous. But when the acting is no better than what a junior high play could produce, the fear factor is totally lost. I’m not sure who to blame more for those poor screaming performances, the actors/actresses or the director. Probably both. The drama is a very mild psychological thriller, not the horror show it had the potential to be.
There was a part that wasn’t explained that should have been – how did the bleeding picture work? Unfortunately, I didn’t like the show well enough to even care all that much about it. It was just something I noticed that had been left dangling.
Sadly, the ending was a bit confusing. As the whole thing came to a close I said out loud, “I don’t get it.” It was the shot with both of them lying on the ground that made me say, “What?” Sorry I have to be so vague but once you see it you’ll know what I’m talking about. Let me know if you understood what the writer was trying to say there.
Before his quiet birthday dinner, Lee Kang-Woo plays Yiruma’s iconic song Maybe on the piano for his mother (in the exact same key as the original recording). It looked as if Nam Tae-Hyun was really playing the song. With him actually being a songwriter it shouldn’t come as a shock that he plays the piano. The only complaint I have is that the scene/song only lasted about ten seconds but, hey, I’ll take what I can get when it comes to Yiruma’s music. There’s also a couple ballads that play as the kids are quietly painting or Kang-Woo and his gal are happily sharing moments together.
The university, Kang-Woo’s spectacularly rich-looking home, and the spooky mansion in the woods are the main backdrops for the show.
It really wouldn’t be a shame if you decided to skip this 2016 joint Chinese-Korean production. If you’re looking for spooky, Under the Black Moonlight could possibly be the one for you if you scare easily and watch it alone in the dark during a thunderstorm on Halloween night – or maybe not.
Decent character background
Nice music (especially Yiruma)
Interesting art work
Amateurish frightened acting
Special effects leave a lot to be desired