Top 10 Korean Films of 2018

hy 2018.0012018 was quite a bizarre year for Korean cinema.

The year began much like any other. The first few months of the year were typically dedicated to family-friendly fare. News of Korean films that were invited to Cannes Film Festival arose. And then…well, everything seemed to fall flat.

One by one, the big tentpole films of the year arrived in cinemas and were greeted by less than stellar reviews and even less interested audiences. This was particularly surprising given how high profile many of the projects and talents involved were, but the negative word of mouth that seemingly accompanied each release was quick to spread and in Korea, the power of WOM has no equal. That said, such movies still generally performed well at the box office, thanks in no small part to the screen quota they occupied.

It fell to the mid-sized and independent films to bolster the year and as always there were some welcome additions that enjoyed healthy box office success. Prioritizing story and character over the luxurious production values of their blockbuster counterparts is a common feature but was even more apparent this year, and it was largely these films that captured the attention of cinemagoers.

While not the strongest of years, there are still some highlights to look out for. Here are Hanguk Yeonghwa’s top ten Korean films of 2018.

No. 10 – Between the Seasons (계절과 계절 사이)

betweenOne of the most surprising discoveries at Busan Film Festival was director Kim Junsik’s charming LGBTQ story Between the Seasons. The story follows cafe owner Hae-soo, a woman running from a difficult past, who becomes friends with creative high schooler Ye-jin. Through their burgeoning relationship the story explores gender, sexuality and love in contemporary Korea with real sincerity while never succumbing to trite melodrama. Oh Ha-nee in particular provides a moving performance as adolescent Hae-soo. Between the Seasons is a delicate and thoughtful story about tolerance and identity.

No. 9 – Intimate Strangers (완벽한 타인)

intimateIntimate Strangers follows a group of old friends who gather for a dinner party and decide to play a dangerous game – throughout the night, everyone’s phone calls and messages must be available for all to hear. Based on the 2016 Italian film Perfect Strangers, Intimate Strangers flits between comedy and drama as more and more secrets emerge, as the fascinating premise forces everyone to question their relationships, shared histories, and beliefs. Actor Yoo Hae-jin once again shines as a bad husband who slowly begins to change as revelations arise.

No. 8 – Be With You (지금 만나러 갑니다)

beA delightfully entertaining melodrama, director Lee Jang-hoon’s Be With You is certainly one of the most endearing tales of the year. Adapted from the Japanese film and novel of the same name, the influence of J-cultural storytelling is clear throughout yet is filled with Korean charm. Son Ye-jin is in typically great form as a wife/mother who has lost her memory, while the romantic backstory and family dynamic are especially alluring. Although Be With You doesn’t reinvent the genre in any way, the film is a lovingly made melodrama that pulls the heartstrings in all the right ways.

No. 7 – Dark Figure of Crime (암수살인)

darkBased on the shocking true story of unsolved murders in Busan, Dark Figure of Crime is a fascinating tale both for the onscreen shocks and the complicated production history. The film follows a detective who investigates cold cases, but the criminal responsible – although confessing to everything – is especially unreliable and as such, discovering the victims proves an arduous task. The police too dislike their old cases being investigated, and the apathy towards the high numbers of people missing and/or murdered is one of the real shocks of the film.

No. 6 – Believer (독전)

believerDirector Lee Hae-young’s Believer puts a stylish Korean spin on this remake/reimagining of Hong Kong director Johnnie To’s Drug War. Excess is the name of the game, as the story features wild narrative twists and flamboyant characters as the cat-and-mouse crime caper escalates. Production values are particularly lavish (as with the director’s previous film The Silenced), while the suspense-filled confrontations are real highlights. Solidly entertaining throughout, Believer is certainly 2018’s most enjoyable gangster movie.

No. 5 – Little Forest <리틀 포레스트>

littleOne of the surprise hits of the year was undoubtedly director Yim Soon-rye’s Little Forest. Adapted from the Japanese original, the film sees a university student become frustrated with city life and return to her hometown where she rediscovers a passion for cooking using her mother’s recipes. Little Forest became particularly popular among young Koreans (who themselves deal with extraordinary stress due to academic pressure and unemployment anxieties), and it’s easy to see why – the tale is a quietly understated expression of self-discovery and friendship, with the ever-charismatic Kim Tae-ri and perfectly presented national dishes beguiling audiences.

No. 4 – Herstory <허스토리>

herstoryThe tragic story of Korean ‘comfort women’ – Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops – is a poignant subject that often appears on screens big and small. The latest is Herstory, based on the true events of a group of women from Busan who sought to take the Japanese government to court for their role in the atrocities. Helmed by director Min Kyu-dong, Herstory is a powerful testament to the strength and resilience of the women who refused to give up despite overwhelming pressure both at home and abroad. The film also boasts a powerhouse performance by the almost unrecognisable Kim Hee-ae who is wonderfully charismatic as a no-nonsense businesswoman determined to see Japan publicly acknowledge war crimes, and whose determination drives the events forward.

No. 3 – House of Hummingbird <벌새>

houseA delightful discovery this year was House of Hummingbird, the stand-out film at the Busan International Film Festival. Director Kim Bo-ra’s debut feature is the coming-of-age story of youngster Eun-hee, who struggles with identity issues while also attempting to navigate the confusing relationships that exist around her, notably within her dysfunctional family. Told with acute sensitivity and a keen feminist eye, director Kim has constructed a quiet yet assured story of adolescence that emphasises the difficulty in connecting with others and the frustrating discrimination young women experience.

House of Hummingbird will next appear at Berlinale in 2019 in a newly edited form and will likely hit the festival circuit throughout the year, and is certainly one to watch out for.

No. 2 – The Spy Gone North <공작>

spyPremiering Out of Competition at Cannes and based on real life events, The Spy Gone North is a taught espionage thriller by director Yoon Jong-bin. Boasting exquisite production design throughout, Spy generates suspense via impressive dialogue scenes and narrative twists rather than action-orientated fare, with the appearance of certain (in)famous individuals and historical situations adding significant tension to the proceedings. Amazingly, while the running time is over 2 hours Spy is consistently engaging while also offering a fascinating insight into the complex political corruption on the peninsula.

No. 1 – Burning <버닝>

burningDirector Lee Chang-dong made a triumphant return to cinemas after an 8 year hiatus with Burning, a powerful and resonating drama-thriller about disaffected Korean youths.  As with most of director Lee’s films, multiple viewings are required to unlock the sheer majesty and depths within the story as the narrative is so focused on metaphor and irony, as well as providing keen social commentary. This is arguably why Burning has proved somewhat divisive amongst audiences, as the aesthetics require serious engagement. Performances are phenomenal throughout with Yoo Ah-in providing a career-best highlight, Steven Yeun masterful in conveying the entitlement and boredom of Gangnam’s elite, and newcomer Jeon Jong-seo excelling as the innocent-yet-rebellious Hae-mi.

Aside from premiering In Competition at Cannes, Burning has also has the distinction of appearing on the shortlist for Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, the closest any Korean film has come to an Oscar nomination. Rightly so – Burning is the closest Korean cinema has come to producing a modern classic for quite some time, and is wholly deserving of the attention.

Top 10 Korean Films of 2017 

Top 10 Korean Films of 2016 / Top 10 Korean Films of 2015

Top 10 Korean Films of 2014 – Most Memorable Moments of 2014

Top 10 Korean Films of 2013 – Most Memorable Moments of 2013

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Reviews

Memories of the Sword (협녀, 칼의 기억) – ★★☆☆☆

Memories of the SwordMany years ago, a peasant uprising led by the legendary 3 Swords goes awry when Deok-gi (Lee Byung-hun) betrays the band of warriors by aligning with the corrupt king and murdering Poong-chun (Bae Soo-Bin). Distraught, Seol-rang (Jeon Do-yeon) flees with Poong-chan’s infant daughter Hong-yi, vowing revenge. 18 years later, Hong-yi (Kim Go-eun) has become a master swordsman thanks to the tutelage of the now-blind Seol-rang, and upon learning of her tragic history embarks on a quest to avenge her father.

Hong-yi prepares to test her skills

Hong-yi tests her skills against the military’s finest warrior

Memories of the Sword is perhaps best described as a Korean attempt at the wuxia sub-genre, a particularly bold undertaking by writer/director Park Heung-sik considering the its very Chinese origins and the quality of titles to emerge. To his credit, Memories of the Sword is a handsomely shot film and often features beautifully composed sequences as characters interact with stunning natural landscapes. The film owes a huge debt of gratitude to cinematographer Kim Byeong-seo as he employs wuxia traits to make a visually engaging and stylised piece of work that is rare in K-cinema.

Yet Memories of the Sword falls apart due to its highly convoluted plot and poor narrative structure. Attempts to create melodrama and intrigue between characters quickly become tedious as the relationships and shared histories presented are laborious to endure, while big reveals that could have injected tension into the story are haphazardly divulged. As such, it’s often difficult to tell whether Memories of the Sword is a reverential wuxi undertaking or a parody of the genre.

MotS

Blind master Seol-rang perfects her swordplay

Both Jeon Do-yeon and Lee Byung-hun are without a doubt two of the most talented actors in Korean cinema, and it’s a genuine delight to see them interact on screen together. Jeon Do-yeon in particular stands out in Memories of the Sword as she injects a passionate intensity and humanity into Seol-rang, an impressive feat given the character is so thread-bare. Kim Go-eun is also a great talent as witnessed in A Muse, yet here she appears to be in completely different film to her co-stars as she overacts her way through scenes with youthful glee.

In terms of action, no one fairs especially well when it comes to the martial arts sequences and wire-work essential to the film. The choreography is competent but generally uninspired, failing to generate the required investment to make the thrills riveting viewing. While watching it’s impossible to not recall superior examples of the genre – notably Hero and House of Flying Daggers, from which Memories of the Sword appears to take so much influence – and wish to be watching them instead.

MotS1

Villainess Deok-gi lusts for power

Verdict:

Memories of the Sword is visually impressive Korean attempt at the wuxia sub-genre, yet aside from a selection of beautifully composed scenes the martial arts adventure falls flat.

★★☆☆☆

 

Reviews

Blue Butterfly Effect (파란나비효과) – ★★★★☆

Blue Butterfly Effect

When the Korean and American governments announce that the military THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system is to be located in the rural county of Seongju, residents quickly become alarmed. As the local citizens begin researching the issue further they become increasingly politically aware, ultimately organising protests against THADD that continue to grow in strength and number. Blue Butterfly Effect (파란나비효과) documents the protests against THADD, from its grass-roots origins through to the nationwide coverage the issue generated.

BBE

The protests grow throughout the province

Director Park Moon-chil, who debuted with the wonderfully sensitive and empowering My Place (2013), returns with an inspiring tale of protest in Blue Butterfly Effect and in doing so cements his status as one of the best documentary filmmakers currently working in Korean cinema.

Blue Butterfly Effect proves to be so engaging largely due to the central subjects at the core of the story, as housewives, farmers, seamstresses et al from the community come together to explain how they became aware of THADD, detailing the passion and outrage it generated that ultimately led to forming a protest movement. Such scenes are brilliantly executed, providing not only an informative piece on the nature of the issue but also an insightful commentary on protest culture within contemporary Korea.

Director Park wisely goes beyond purely representing their opinions of THADD however, as he delves into the subjects’ voting habits, regional identity, and the increasing political and historical awareness each member experiences, unveiling acute character development. No matter how big the challenges over THADD become, the film never loses focus of the personal dimensions of the conflict, making the story an intimate portrait of nationwide debate and virtually demands audience investment.

In documenting the manner in which the THADD protests and responses escalate, director Park goes where few filmmakers dare to tread in depicting the ‘dirty tricks’ employed by those in favour of the military technology. In presenting the ways local politicians change stance and ‘spin’ alternative narratives, the collusion between the government and big business, as well as featuring elitist prejudice – misogynistic comments, and the head of the Education Ministry’s comment that 99% of Koreans are “like dogs and pigs” – combine to produce a startling portrait of modern politics, one that taps into the zeitgeist of anti-conservatism sweeping the country following President Moon Jae-in’s inauguration.

BBE4

As politicians spin narratives, public outrage and peaceful protests increase

Verdict:

Blue Butterfly Effect is a powerful testament to the spirit of Korean people and the power of protest, as well as an important cultural text in its own right. Director Park Moon-chil again proves his talent as a documentarian to watch, for Blue Butterfly Effect is a film that, for current and future generations, and those interested in the politics of the peninsula, demands to be seen.

 ★★★★☆

 

Reviews

Yourself and Yours (당신자신과 당신의 것) – ★★★☆☆

Yourself and Yours (당신자신과 당신의 것)

Synopsis: When aspiring artist Young-soo (Kim Joo-hyuck) discusses his intention to marry Min-jung (Lee You-young), the idea is laughed at by a close friend (Kim Eui-sung). Clearly offended, Young-soo demands answers – and hears of the rumours that Min-jung has been meeting and drinking with different men around the neighbourhood. Deeply hurt, Young-soo confronts Min-jung about the rumours – all of which she denies – and following the fight she decides to leave. Young-soo desperately wants to make things right with Min-jung – but what is the truth?

Young-soo hears rumours his girlfriend is meeting other men

Notions of truth, jealousy and trust are playfully explored through director Hong Sang-soo‘s Yourself and Yours, with the film navigating such potentially dramatic material with the charismatic whimsy audiences have come to expect from the celebrated auteur. Whereas director Hong’s previous film Right Now Wrong Then explored the ramifications of truthfulness in a relationship, Yourself and Yours takes a markedly different approach. While Young-soo’s suspicions initially drive the couple apart, Min-jung is presented in the sequences that follow in completely different personas, seemingly not recognising past acquaintances and behaving erratically.

The film doesn’t provide any simple answers for the situations that arise – perhaps Min-jung has a disorder; perhaps the sequences are purely from Young-soo’s jealous mind – but that’s seemingly not particularly important as audiences are swept along the journey due to the quirky interactions and comedically awkward moments. What the narrative does appear to embrace is that control within a relationship is folly and that compromise is a necessity, while identity is a fluid construct that alters depending on how a person wishes to present themselves. Traditional answers are not the ultimate goal of Yourself and Yours, rather, it’s a charismatic journey of discovery and one that fans of director Hong will undoubtedly appreciate.

Min-jung meets writer Jaeyoung at a cafe, yet her behaviour is erratic

Verdict:

Yourself and Yours is a whimsical exploration of identity and trust within modern relationships, featuring charismatic performances by all involved yet particularly by Lee You-young. Those unfamiliar with director Hong Sang-soo’s work might be a little perplexed, but for the converted Yourself and Yours is real treat.

★★★☆☆

Reviews

4th Place (4등) – ★★☆☆☆

4th Place (4등)

4th Place (4등)

Youngster Joon-ho (Yoo Jae-sang (유재상) loves to be in the water and has a real talent for swimming, yet for some reason he always places fourth in competitions. Furious at her son’s lack of improvement despite her constant scolding, Joon-ho’s mother (Lee Hang-na (이항나) seeks out a renowned swimming coach with terrible reputation – former olympic hopeful Gwang-soo (Park Hae-joon (박해준). As Joon-ho’s training commences, coach Gwang-soo’s methods become increasingly violent, revealing the extremes taken and endured in such a competitive culture.

Joon-ho adores swimming and is mesmirised by the nature of light and water

Joon-ho adores swimming and is mesmirised by the nature of light and water

Produced in conjunction with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, 4th Place is a potent exploration of the extremely competitive education culture that exists within Asia. Studies routinely reveal that Korean children are amongst the unhappiest in the world with shocking levels of suicide, due the incredible stress heaped upon them by strict parents and teachers, and as such director Jeong Ji-woo deserves respect merely for broaching the issue on film.

Director Jeong examines the issue through Joon-ho, a youngster who deeply enjoys swimming yet is incessantly berated and belittled by his shrill mother for not taking the sport more competitively. The manner in which she psychologically torments her son is equal parts horrifying and infuriating to behold, as she manipulates Joon-ho into equating his lack of success as a lack of love for her, initiating deep internalised guilt. Through her machinations at church – which director Jeong subtly insinuates as a place of corruption – she finds a coach for Joon-ho, one who verbally and physically abuses the youngster. Parallels are clear with the exceptional drama Whiplash, and while 4th Place never reaches those heights it deserves commendation for tackling such a vital societal issue.

Joon-ho's training often includes bouts of violence and verbal abuse by the coach

Joon-ho’s training often includes bouts of violence and verbal abuse by the coach

Visually, 4th Place is beautifully shot during the swimming scenes. The lighting and lenses used serve to create a world of majesty and elegance under the water, a place where Joon-ho can escape and find enjoyment in solitude. Such sequences wonderfully convey the youngster’s love of swimming and the freedom it brings, as he gracefully glides through the water as if it’s his natural state of being. Yet such cinematic stylisation rarely extends beyond the arena of the pool however, with director Jeong’s more sophisticated dramatic techniques as employed in prior films Eungyo (A Muse) and Happy End sadly missing during scenes of family conflict.

The dramatic tension is also undermined by the lack of a central figure. Whiplash is a phenomenal film largely due to Miles Teller’s central performance from a mild-mannered to psychologically unhinged student, yet in 4th Place acting duties are generally shared equally among the cast resulting in a lack of singular perspective and characters that are largely one-dimensional. Perhaps worryingly, the most developed member of the film is the violent coach due to (an overly long) prelude that simultaneously infers the circular nature of corporal punishment and generates sympathy for him – arguably more so than young victim Joon-ho. In more adept hands the emotional complexity of the mother and coach could shine through despite the script’s shortcomings, though Lee Hang-na and Park Hae-joon are unfortunately not up to the task as they over-exaggerate their respective performances.

Nevertheless the story is a timely and important one, with the film’s finale one of the most creative and enjoyable sequences witnessed in Korean independent cinema in quite some time.

Follwing physical abuse and family strife, Joon-ho must decide his future

Follwing physical abuse and family strife, Joon-ho must decide his future

Verdict:

Co-produced with the Korean Human Rights Commission, 4th Place is a powerful reminder of the brutal nature of Korea’s competitive educational system, and the inordinate abuse applied by authority figures toward students. Director Jeong Ji-woo explores the issue well and is particularly impressive during swimming sequences, resulting in a timely film that deserves commendation for tackling important and challenging subject matter.

★★☆☆☆

Busan International Film Festival (20회 부산국제영화제) Korean Film Festivals 2015 Reviews

Reach for the SKY (공부의 나라) – ★★★★☆

Reach for the SKY (공부의 나라)

Reach for the SKY (공부의 나라)

Every year, Korean high school students undertake the infamous ‘Suneung’ exam – a gruelling series of college scholastic ability tests that will  determine which university they can attend, the status of which in turn will dictate potential opportunities that will arise in later life. The most prestigious and highly sought after institutions are Seoul National, Korea, and Yonsei universities which form the an acronym SKY, respectively, with students often resorting to extreme measures in order to achieve enrolment. Documentary Reach for the SKY follows a selection of students on their quest to be in the top percentile and fulfil their ambitions.

Students attempt to cope with their stressful ordeal with humour

Students attempt to cope with their stressful ordeal with humour

One of the most well-received Korean independent films at Busan Film Festival earlier this year, documentary Reach for the SKY is an engrossing exploration of the inordinate amount of pressure caused by the infamous Suneung exam as well as the cultural phenomena that has spawned in its wake. Directors Steven Dhoedt and Choi Woo-young wisely avoid taking a stance on the issue yet emphasise the burdens, profiteering and fervour with impressively subtle irony, which will likely mean little to native Koreans but will resonate strongly with audiences unfamiliar with the country’s harsh education system.

Filmed over the course of four years, Reach for the SKY follows a well-chosen selection of students at various stages in their academic careers as they attempt to pass Suneung exam, and through their experiences directors Dhoedt and Choi reveal an array of startling cultural facets with keen insight. Whether the subjects are taking or re-taking the infamous test, the co-helmers broaden the perspective to capture the unique contexts within which the students operate, and in doing so the pressures from parents, teachers and wider society are revealed to fascinating effect.

The pressures of the Suneung exam have spawned wealthy celebrity teachers

The pressures of the Suneung exam have spawned wealthy celebrity teachers

Of these, the individuals and institutions that profit from the anxieties surrounding the exam are given focus, notably the celebrity teachers and boarding schools that have arisen as a result. The directors brilliantly capture the startling quasi-pop star status of a teacher as he lectures on stage to a sold out auditorium full of eager teens before driving home in his BMW, scenes which are effectively juxtaposed with a boarding school more akin to a juvenile offender prison than an academic organisation, and religious institutions that depict the fervour of acolytes as they speak in tongues.

In each case, directors Dhoedt and Choi lace the images with a wonderfully cheeky sense of comedic irony that helps to offset the rather astonishing nature of such scenes. The instances where the wealthy celeb-teacher actually fails to speak/write English correctly particularly resonates, while the poor English signs at the boarding school, the mean parents/teachers who receive angry disapproving looks from students, the annoyed Buddhist monk who is handed a list of hundreds of students to pray for, all combine to underscore gentle and playful criticisms of the education system.

Arguably the most potent form of critique is the manner Reach for the SKY intermittently incorporates quotations from the Analects of Confucius, an ideology which still holds powerful relevance in contemporary Korean society. Through citing such Confucian texts, followed by sequences revealing how the education system has evolved in an alternative direction, the implication is clear – teens are studying not to be enlighten but to be assessed, and their suffering is very real.

Every year thousands of students sit the stress-inducing Suneung exam

Every year thousands of students sit the stress-inducing Suneung exam

Verdict:

Reach for the Sky is an impressive documentary exploring the infamous Suneung exam. Directors Steven Dhoedt and Choi Woo-young insightfully capture the stresses endured by students generated by the harsh education system and wider socio-cultural facets, often with wonderfully cheeky irony that serves to gently critique the entire phenomenon to fascinating effect.

★★★★☆

Busan International Film Festival (20회 부산국제영화제) Korean Film Festivals 2015 Reviews

The Priests (검은 사제들) – ★★★☆☆

The Priests (검은 사제들)

The Priests (검은 사제들)

When Catholic student Yeong-shin (Park So-dam (박소담) is involved in a hit-and-run incident, she begins to develop peculiar maladies that doctors are at a loss to explain. Upon visiting the distraught youngster, Priest Kim (Kim Yoon-seok (김윤석) becomes convinced she’s possessed and prepares to exorcise the demon within, despite the church ‘s refusal to sanction the ritual. Yet Kim cannot perform the ceremony alone, and employs the help of Deacon Choi (Kang Dong-won (강동원). Together, they may just have a chance at saving Yeong-shin’s life…or perhaps Kim really is as crazy as the allegations against him claim to be.

Yeong-shin begins to develop bizarre symptoms following her accident

Yeong-shin begins to develop bizarre symptoms following her accident

One of the surprise sleeper hits of 2015, writer/director Jang Jae-hyeon’s exorcism drama The Priests is far more fun and entertaining than it has any right to be. While religious mystery-horrors are quite a rarity in Korean cinema, Jang popularises the risky prospect by imbuing the film with an unexpected amount of wit and charisma which, alongside impressively constructed exorcism scenes, are enough to overlook the various narrative shortcomings.

Adapting his well-received 2014 short film 12th Assistant Deacon – which notably won the Best Director Prize at Jeonju International Film Festival – into feature length format was no easy feat, but director Jang succeeds much more than he fails.

The Priests is an enjoyable affair chiefly due the characterisation and resulting conflict between stoic Father Kim and lackadaisical Deacon Choi who, as polar opposites, play off each other well throughout the film in ways both comedic and entertaining. The narrative unveils predominantly through Choi’s perspective as he is asked to join Kim for the exorcism ritual, while never really quite sure of the reality of the situation. Kang Dong-won is somewhat miscast in the role as the naive Deacon but he infuses the role with a palpable likability while the approach is a good one, introducing the concept to unfamiliar Korean audiences while also addressing the cynicism such tales evoke.

Deacon Choi joins Father Kim as they prepare for the ritual

Deacon Choi joins Father Kim as they prepare for the ritual

The humour and mystery involved in preparing for the exorcism is entertaining enough to distract audiences from the fact that there are plot holes and unresolved tangents galore as well as the curious absence of an emotional core. In the original 1973 horror classic The Exorcist director William Friedkin spent much of the first act developing Regan prior to her possession in order to heighten audience empathy with her situation; in The Priests no such effort is made with Yeong-shin and as a result her ordeal is difficult to invest in despite the shock value. That said, however, Park So-dam embodies the role of the traumatised teen brilliantly and works wonders with the little material she has, flitting between innocence and raving lunacy seemingly at ease to make sequences particularly disturbing.

Much of the first half of the film, while enjoyable, is mostly filler prior to the actual exorcism itself, where The Priests ultimately unveils its unique aesthetic. Taking cues from previous films involving exorcism whilst incorporating a distinctly Korean take on the material, director Jang and the production crew are to be commended for constructing a startlingly effective sequence of macabre events as the ritual unfolds. The set design alongside impressive practical effects create scenes of supernatural horror that are thoroughly engaging, and offers one of the more unique cinematic experiences from the Korean film industry.

Father Kim dedicates himself to exorcising the demon within Yeong-shin

Father Kim dedicates himself to exorcising the demon within Yeong-shin

Verdict:

The Priests is quite a rarity in Korean cinema, with writer/director Jang Jae-hyeon’s take on exorcism subject matter far more entertaining than it has any right to be. The comedic and mysterious undertones help to mask plot holes and the lack of an emotional core, yet the drama comes into it’s own during an engaging final act and as a result is one of the more surprisingly enjoyable films of 2015.

★★★☆☆

Reviews