Story By: Johnny Yoon
Photos By: Hancinema
One thing Korea does very well is make amazing movie trailers. While you are sitting in the theater waiting for your movie to start, they will show off some films that are either out or coming out soon. That’s how I came across The ‘Witch: Part 1. The Subversion’. As soon as I saw it, I wanted to see it. But I’ve been hurt before with these kinds of trailers. So, after the movie I paid for that night, I went home and looked more into it. When I found out who the director was, my excitement only grew. Park Hoon-Jung, who directed movies like, “The Tiger”, “New World”, and “I Saw the Devil”, is back with another violent yet tamed thriller.
The opening scene brings us to a facility that has been bloodied by some kind of massacre. Men are walking around in black suits carrying bats and covered in blood and we are introduced to Dr. Baek (Cho Min-su) who seemingly is in charge of the facility. Then, we are thrown outside where a little girl is running with men and dogs on her trail. When we come back to Dr. Baek, she is now sitting in a truck when Mr. Choi (Park Hee-soon) shows up with a little boy covered in blood.
At this point, we don’t know what is going on, but we are pulled in and find ourselves needing to solve this mystery. The little girl makes it to a nearby farm before we are thrust 10 years into the story. It is at this point when the story begins to slow down to let us get to know our protagonist, Ja-Yoon, played by Kim Da-mi. She is now a high school student who seems to have a pretty happy life but we all know this is about to change.
It takes a good 30 to 40 minutes before we see any action of any kind. But this wasn’t a bad thing. The director decided to focus on character and story development, which for me is always a plus. We began to care for her and her adopted family. Da-mi’s performance as the neighborhood farm girl was believable and as the story moved forward, her acting only seemed to get better.
If you are use to Park Hoon-jung’s films, you might be expecting a brutal, all-out action packed film, but you aren’t going to get that with ‘The Witch.’ As the title leads us to believe, this is only the beginning of the story and there was no need to rush past anything. With that being said, this film doesn’t leave us empty handed. The final fight is brutal and exactly what you would expect from the director. The special effects used to make these “witches” move fast and violently across the screen were fantastic. I always get nervous when watching films that deal with characters who have super powers. A lot of them rely heavily on CGI and end up coming off as cartoonish and take you out of the film. That was not the case with ‘The Witch.’ The fights and acrobatics in the film never seem out of place and the CGI used, was there only to enhance the experience.
My only complaint is that our protagonist seems a bit overpowered. There is a point in the film where we stop being concerned for her safety and instead become more concerned with everyone else’s safety. Towards the end, it felt like there were no more risks for Ja-yoon which took away some of the thrill and tension from the final act.
Park Hoon-jung does a great job with this film keeping us in the dark until the right moment. The violence is really only there to help further the story and the special effects helped enhance our experience while watching the film. As far as acting, Kim Da-mi really shined throughout the whole movie and at times was quite haunting. I’m excited to see where they take this story in Part 2 of the series.