After the rather minor success, accompanied by mostly unfavourable critiques of his 2017 feature V.I.P, a film where mediocre imagination ruled the depictions of cruel treatment of women, which turned it into a prosaic, occasionally sickening narrative, Park Hoon-jung, who penned The Unjust (2010) and I Saw the Devil (2010), has finally made a proper comeback with a strong and exhilarating supernatural thriller, The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion, starring the newcomer, Kim Da-mi.

the witch still 2

The film starts with a carnage in a secret facility, where children are modified and programmed to become warriors with superpowers. During the bloodshed, a boy and a girl manage to escape; however, the boy is soon caught by Mr. Choi (Park Hee-soon: The Fortress, 1987: When the Day Comes) and Dr. Baek (Jo Min-soo: Pieta). The little girl ends up unconscious on a farm far from the laboratory, where she is found by Goo (Choi Jung-woo) and his wife (Oh Mi-hee). They take the girl in and raise her as their own. 10 years later, Ja-yoon (Kim Da-mi) – still unaware of what happened to her – lives her life quietly and attends a local high school like any other teenager would. With the family living on a tight budget and with Ja-yoon’s mother suffering from Alzheimer, the girl decides to appear in a singing competition, with the possibility of winning $500,000.

Ja-yoon and her mischievous friend Myung-hee (Go Min-si) make their way to Seoul, where the next competition is held. However, during their train journey, a strange young man, Gong-ja, a.k.a. Nobleman (Choi Woo-shik: Okja, Monstrum), approaches them and tries to provoke Ja-yoon; it appears like the man knows the girl well, without Ja-yoon being familiar with Gong-ja. After this and the following encounters, Ja-yoon is gradually forced to face who she is and where she really came from – her supernatural powers come alive in a crucial moment of her life and the roller-coaster ride begins…


After the fast-paced intro, the narrative abruptly changes to become slow-moving, only to speed up again in the second part of The Witch. This pacing is a part of what makes the film so engaging; that, and the unexpected twists and turns prove that Park Hoon-jung still possesses the spark for directing; the production is electrifying and adrenaline-pumping.

While the narrative of V.I.P was poorly written, Park’s new work is filled with strong female characters, including Professor Baek and the heroine herself – Ja-yoon. Kim Da-mi’s portrayal of the protagonist shows that the modern Korean cinema is in a great need of more female leads. Her characterization of the young woman, as well as her transformation throughout the film, are dazzling. Her character is neither good nor evil; she is just a living creature, trying to survive as she goes on a necessary rampage. On top of great acting, after spending three months in an action school, Kim Da-mi showcased some serious combat skills on the big screen.

the witch still 3

Even if one can catch some similarities to the Marvel’s X-Men stories, the brutality of the fight scenes takes things on another level in The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion and has a substantial impact on the audience – Park is back with the butchery that can rival that in his New World. Given the ending of the film, it is hard not to notice that there is a sequel in the works, but the future direction of the narrative is still hard to predict.

The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion merges thriller, action and sci-fi genres flawlessly, a testament to Park’s storytelling talent. The only thing left to do is to wait for the sequel, which should hopefully come out in a year or so.

Rating: 4-stars

Written by Maggie Gogler

Edited by Sanja Struna

All photos © Warner Bros.

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About viewofkoreancinema

Maggie Gogler is a freelance film producer, production manager and she also works with children. She has a passion for Korean and World Cinema as well as music and arts. Maggie has been interested in cinema since she was 15 and discovered love for Korean films in 2004 when she saw Kim Ki Duk’s The Isle. She supports British and Asian independent film-making and enjoys producing creative and interesting projects. Maggie is the co-founder of View of the Arts and its sister website View of Korean Cinema. Sanja Struna is a freelance translator, occasional writer and a perpetual dreamer. Film is her first and longest-lasting love; since writing is her second, she saw the light a couple of years ago, let the two join hands and entered the field of film journalism. She has honed her knowledge through various film festivals which she either worked for or frequented. She is currently harboring a fascination with all things Korean and condones losing sleep if that means she can watch a good Korean film or drama. Sanja is the editor of View of the Arts and co-founder of View of Korean Cinema.


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