The Chosen: Forbidden Cave (퇴마: 무녀굴) – ★☆☆☆☆

The Chosen: Forbidden Cave (퇴마: 무녀굴)

The Chosen: Forbidden Cave (퇴마: 무녀굴)

N.B. This review is based on the Bucheon Fantastic Film Festival 2015 edit, screened at the closing ceremony.

Psychologist Jin-myeong (Kim Seong-gyoon (김성균) is unique in his trade as one of the few professionals who considers supernatural phenomena when treating clients, performing exorcisms with apprentice Ji-gwang (Kim Hye-seong (김혜성) when the need arises. Due to his unorthodox methods Jin-myeong has earned a notable reputation, attracting the unwanted attention of documentary producer Hye-in (Cha Ye-ryeon (차예련). Yet they are forced to combine their efforts when a disturbing new case occurs, as art curator Geum-joo (Yoo Seon (유선) is at the mercy of a particularly vindictive spirit, the secrets of which originate from forgotten childhood memories and a ghostly cave.

Geun-joo's possession proves an extremely difficult task for psychologist:exorcist Jin-myeong

Geun-joo’s possession proves an extremely difficult task for psychologist/exorcist Jin-myeong

With a solid premise but poor execution, director Kim Hwi’s horror/thriller The Chosen: Forbidden Cave is heavy on frustration and light on scares. As the closing film for BiFan’s 2015 edition, the festival’s claim of the film’s ability to ‘punch up the horror scene’ in the industry is unfortunately pure hyperbole as The Chosen is, aside from a few well-constructed set-pieces, a bland addition in dire need of a re-edit.

The Chosen: Forbidden Cave begins in intriguing fashion as Jin-myeong lectures on the importance of shamanism when considering diagnosis, with a handful of scares to sell the concept. Yet from there the narrative rapidly descends into chaos as characters and themes randomly arise and recede, with the audience expected to instinctively know their place within the story. Jin-myeong appears to have the ability of foresight through dreams yet it is never made clear while a subplot, possibly involving  his wife and a botched exorcism, is never explained; his subordinate Ji-gwang just seemingly appears during consultations while his supernatural gifts – other than furiously shaking a plant during treatments – are not ascertained; documentary producer Hye-in’s history and motivations are not revealed; and most importantly, there is zero logic in the aimless actions of the vindictive spirit that inhabits Geum-joo. Frustration quickly sets in as characters and events occur randomly, with a re-edit, and much greater elaboration and development, sorely needed.

The search for answers to Geum-joo's affliction takes the team into horrific territory

The search for answers to Geum-joo’s affliction takes the team into horrific territory

While the ghost that inhabits Geum-joo is aggravatingly indiscriminate, the haphazard nature allows director Kim to stage a variety of horror set pieces that are generally well-constructed. While they are cliche and form a story more akin to a series of horror sequences than a coherent whole, the macabre scenes serve to present the tropes expected from the genre. Problematically however, as there are so many sequences of this manner, the impact and effectiveness of the horror is lost as audiences become increasingly immune.

Furthermore, the use of the 1948 Jeju Massacre as the ultimate source of terror within The Chosen is in particularly bad taste. Not that the tragic event doesn’t lend itself well to the genre, but the manner in which the tragedy is employed and interpreted as antiquated and misandrist, in need of purging by contemporary patriarchy and Christianity, is borderline offensive.

Actor Kim Seong-gyoon fares the best as psychologist/exorcist Jin-myeong within The Chosen. His stoic turn as the broad-minded professional halts emotional investment in the journey yet provides a solid foundation from which the events revolve around. The rest of the cast do not prosper as well. Yoo Seon is generally required to run around screaming and crying, while Cha Ye-ryeon and Kim Hye-seong are present merely to appear attractive and little else.

Horrific truths await in the cave

Horrific truths await in the cave

Verdict:

Aside from a solid premise and the occasional well-constructed horror sequence, The Chosen: Forbidden Cave is a big misstep from director Kim Hwi. The events and characters within the film appear and recede indiscriminately throughout the haphazard narrative while any sort of development is a rarity. The Chosen is a frustratingly bland addition to the K-horror scene.

★☆☆☆☆

Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (제 19회 부천국제판타스틱영화제) Festival News Korean Film Festivals 2015 Reviews
The 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

PiFan 2013: World Fantastic Cinema

The 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

The 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

The wonderfully titled ‘World Fantastic Cinema’ section in the upcoming Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) features a truly eclectic range of films from a host of countries. With horrors, thrillers, dramas, romance and comedies on offer, there is certainly something for everyone in the line-up.

There are seven feature films from Korea within the category, including some mainstream releases as well as a focus on new talent, all of which are profiled below.

Alternatively, if you wish to see the features on the opening/closing films or the Puchon Choice categories, please click on the link(s) to be taken to the relevant page.

The Bluff (허풍)

The Bluff (허풍)

The Bluff (허풍)

Director: Gong Ja-gwan (공자관)

Synopsis: When four friends gather for a reunion, the small talk eventually gives way to more sexual topics of conversation. A game of bluffs begins, as the friends attempt to get to know each other more deeply than ever before.

Go, Stop, Murder (고스톱 살인)

Go, Stop, Murder (고스톱 살인)

Go, Stop, Murder (고스톱 살인)

Director: Kim Joon-kwon (김준권)

Synopsis: Popular game ‘go, stop’ becomes horririfc in this thriller, as a group of players in the countryside start to die one-by-one. Yet when a substitute player is brought in, he begins to think that the game itself is the source of the problem.

Horror Stories 2 (무서운 이야기2)

Horror Stories 2 (무서운 이야기2)

Horror Stories 2 (무서운 이야기2)

Directors: Jeong Beom-sik (정범식), Kim Hwi (김휘), Kim Seong-ho (김성호), Min Gyu-dong (민규동)

Synopsis: The first Horror Stories film opened PiFan 2012, so it’s perhaps only fitting that the sequel features in the line-up as well. Horror Stories 2 follows in the same footsteps as its predecessor, as three short scary tales are framed within another fourth. The Cliff involves two friends who find trouble in a mountain; Pain of Death features horrors set in the countryside; and Escape is concerned with a teacher who must deal with the consequences of some bad advice. See below for the trailer.

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서)

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서)

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (남자사용설명서)

Director: Lee Won-seok (이원석)

Synopsis: Released back in February this year, director Lee’s How to Use Guys with Secret Tips garnered some impressive reviews from both Korean and foreign critics alike. In a case of extremely bad timing however, the film failed to set the box office alight as it went toe-to-toe with The Berlin File and Miracle in Room No. 7. The film follows unlucky-in-love Bo-na, a Tv commercial assistant director, who discovers a tape featuring instructions on how to seduce and manipulate men. But can she find true love? See below for the trailer.

Oldmen Never Die (죽지않아)

Oldmen Never Die (죽지않아)

Oldmen Never Die (죽지않아)

Director: Hwang Cheol-min (황철민)

Synopsis: In order to inherit his grandfather’s fortune, Ji-hun became a farmer to impress the old man with his labor skills and determination. Yet bizarrely the old man simply refuses to die, while the arrival of a challenger threatens Ji-hun’s plans.

Southern Superhero Showdown (촌능력전쟁)

Southern Superhero Showdown (촌능력전쟁)

Southern Superhero Showdown (촌능력전쟁)

Director: Ryu Hoon (류훈)

Synopsis: The brilliantly titled Southern Superhero Showdown features an unemployed young man named Ho-bang, who accidently discovers a strange village where everyone has superpowers. The paradox however is that the village is seemingly inescapable.

The Truth (진실)

The Truth (진실)

The Truth (진실)

Director: Seo Seung-man (서승만)

Synopsis: This 93 minute fiction blurs the lines between performance and reality through a story featuring stage actors. When weapons are brandished and characters die on stage, what really is going on?

For the full line-up of films in the PiFan World Fantastic Cinema category, please head over to the PiFan site by clicking on this link.

Festival News Korean Festivals 2013 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (제17회 부천국제판타스틱영화제)