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Film / The Housemaid (2010)

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The Housemaid (Hangul: 하녀; hanja: 下女; RR: Hanyeo; MR: Hanyŏ) is a 2010 South Korean melodramatic thriller film, The Remake of a film of the same title made in 1960. Eun-yi has been hired as an au pair and maid to the well-off Goh family, in particular since the woman of the family, Hae-ra, is pregnant with twins. Eun-yi falls in love with the family, in particular their daughter, Nami, but is also seduced by Hoon, the husband (Lee Jung-jae). After she becomes pregnant by Hoon, her attempts to leave the family with her child are opposed by the increasingly murderous women of the family.

The Housemaid was directed by Im Sang Soo.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: The original housemaid is a conniving femme fatale who acts bizarrely, seduces her employer to gain the upper hand, and eventual kills two of the family's three children. In this adaptation, Eun-yi is innocent and good-hearted, and genuinely falls in love with the family, doing nothing to harm Nami and even asking for her forgiveness as she commits suicide, and is taken advantage of by the faithless and lustful Hoon, who she has a crush on.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Aside from Nami, the Goh family is far darker than in the 1960 version. The husband of the original was hapless in the face of the housemaid's seduction; here, Hoon is the sexual predator and takes advantage of Eun-yi. And though the wife in the original did cause the housemaid to miscarry, she didn't force an abortion on her.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Hits home in the final scene where the family is celebrating Nami's birthday outside, singing in English and drinking champagne, all of the servants replaced.
  • Book Ends: The film starts and ends with a suicide.
  • Children Are Innocent: Averted; Nami is fully aware that her grandmother pushed Eun-yi and stares at Eun-yi's burning, hanging corpse in the finale. It's unknown if the latter caused a Break the Cutie and she's as mad as the rest of her family.
  • Driven to Suicide: Eun-yi, especially after she realizes that Hoon is as bad as the rest of them.
  • Evil Matriarch: Hae-ra's mother, who does everything from pushing Eun-yi off the balcony to poisoning Eun-yi and giving her a forced abortion all to "protect" Hae-ra — and most importantly, her marriage to a wealthy man. Hell, after she realizes Eun-yi is pregnant, she's disappointed she didn't push her from somewhere higher.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Hae-ra, her mother, and Hoon go insane after witnessing Eun-yi's disturbing suicide — exactly as Eun-yi intended — and are last seen having a birthday party outside, complete with their furniture, with the new staff looking extremely uncomfortable. Nami's state is more ambiguous.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Subverted. Eun-yi wants to keep the baby, but Hae-ra's mother insists that her keeping it will cause nothing but trouble. When the abortion does happen, Eun-yi has no say in it.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Miss Cho betrays Eun-yi's pregnancy to Hae-ra's mother before Eun-yi even knows about it, though she later feels guilty and confesses after the forced abortion and sneaks Eun-yi back into the mansion.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Hae-ra's mother pushes the ladder over while Eun-yi is dusting the chandelier in an attempt to kill her. It fools no one in the household.
  • Missing Mom: Eun-yi's mother is dead, and Eun-yi frequently visits her grave.
  • One Drink Will Kill the Baby: Averted. Hae-ra drinks a single glass of champagne in several scenes while pregnant.
  • Red Herring: Though it seems like Eun-yi has snuck in so that she can steal one or both of the twins as retribution for her own lost baby, or kill them as in previous remakes out of revenge, she only ends up trying to breastfeed one of the infants before her suicide.
  • The Remake:
    • This is actually the fourth version of this story. There was the 1960 original directed by Kim Ki-Young, a 1971 remake called Woman of Fire also directed by Kim Ki-Young, and in 1982 yet another remake by Kim Ki-Young called Woman of Fire '82.
    • Im Sang Soo's version makes some substantial changes to the story. In the original the husband and wife are middle-class strivers and generally sympathetic, while the housemaid is a sexual predator and villain. In this version the married couple are very rich and pretty evil, and the housemaid is much more sympathetic.
  • Rich Bitch: Hae-ra starts off as being fairly decent (though she does gloat about how she can afford to have more kids than poor people can) but gradually descends into this especially when Eun-yi becomes pregnant and her mother urges her to get rid of Eun-yi's baby.
  • Sanity Slippage: Eun-yi suffers from this more and more over the course of the plot. She seems to be totally insane right before her suicide.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: According to Miss Cho, this is far from the first time that a maid in the house has had an accident which led to an abortion and then a pay-off.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: In the end, Miss Cho decides to quit despite years of service, fed up with the family and leaves calmly during Eun-yi's suicide.
  • Self-Immolation: While committing suicide, Eun-yi hangs herself from the chandelier and lights herself on fire as the noose is strangling her. No wonder this made the family go insane.
  • Sexual Karma: A subversion. Hoon's sex with Eun-yi is much more passionate than the detached and rather emotionless sex with Hae-ra, but it's clear that Eun-yi is being exploited even though she accepts and enjoys it. Sex with Hae-ra has to be less rough and passionate considering she's heavily pregnant with his twins.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Hoon has no problem coming onto Eun-yi — or other servants, presumably.
  • Starts with a Suicide: At the beginning of the movie, Eun-yi and her friend witness a suicide. This seems to provide the impetus for Eun-yi to leave her job at the restaurant to become a housemaid.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Miss Cho gives a short, albeit well-deserved, one to the family at the end. The fact that she'd been a consummate professional before then makes it even more effective.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Eun-yi's friend and old roommate more or less disappears toward the end.