May 19, 2020  (Web Review)

The Witch: Subversion

Well Go USA, 126 min., in Korean w/English subtitles, DVD: $24.99, Blu-ray: $25.99, Mar. 10

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

The subtitle of Korean writer-director Park Hoon-jung’s fifth feature cleverly subverts the title, which seems to promise a conventional horror movie that instead turns out to be a stylish action film in the vein of Hanna and Lucy. The premise revolves around the evil Dr. Baek’s (Cho Min-soo) attempt to create super-powered children. However, she decides to have her henchman Choi (Park Hee-soon) eliminate them all in a bloody massacre. Two escape—a boy who is quickly recaptured, and a girl who finds her way to a remote farm whose elderly owners raise her as their own. Ten years later, Ja-yoon (Kim Da-mi) has become a star student and expert singer, but her odd ways and apparent magical powers cause most of her classmates to consider her a witch. Since the family farm is in financial trouble and her mother is showing signs of dementia, Ja-yoon heeds her best friend’s (Ko Min-shi) suggestion to enter a television contest with a hefty monetary prize. She proves a vocal sensation, but using her telekinetic powers as part of her magic act leads Gong-ja (Choi Woo-sik) (the recaptured boy now in Baek and Choi’s employ) to recognize her. He attempts to kidnap her for experimentation, leading to a surprising twist and series of climactic confrontations, each more elegantly violent than the last. This deliciously odd, eerie movie will make genre fans sit up and cheer. Though the sole extras are three trailers for The Witch, along with three more for other titles, this film is strongly recommended. (F. Swietek)