When the Mt. Jang cave is broken into by a couple of lethal wrongdoers, a ominous presence is released onto the mountainside, a malevolence that can precisely mimic voices of loved ones to lure victims to their ultimate doom. A young family, hanging on to a last bit of unnerving hope, moves into a house on the surrounding area, seeking to reverse the impossible by rejuvenating their semi-catatonic grandmother whom perhaps knows the last whereabouts of their missing boy from five years ago, but what the family encounters on the mountainside is a harmful specter hellbent on using the body of a obsessive and loyal shaman and his innocent, preschooler daughter to obtain more souls for a fearful urban legend, the Jangsan Tiger.
Based off the South Korean folklore involving the Jangsan Tiger, a man-eating beast that lives and hunts on the Jangsan Mountains and can imitate a woman’s screams or the sound of running water to lure people in, “Hide and Seek” director Huh Jung helms “The Mimic,” his sophomore 2017 fantasy thriller that explores a highly entertaining, opt-ed version of the urban legend. Originally titled “Jang-san-beom” in South Korean, Huh also pens the script catered to blend fantasy with delusional, family-destroying hope. Even though hope is more than usually a positive aspect in all dire situations, Huh manipulates hope by molding it as an entrapment, leading friends and family members down a path to a false reality, psychological impairments, and, ultimately, to a melancholic demise.
“The Mimic” stars “A Tale of Two Sisters'” Yum Jung-Ah as a grieving mother, Hee-yeon, looking for answers to the mystery of her son’s disappearance while in the care of her grandmother. Jung-ah tackles a role that’s compiled with emotional affliction, fear, and chimera to which the Seoul born actress challenges herself to depict each complication as one connective element. Park Hyuk-kwon plays her husband, whom is struggling to cope with his wife sadness and inadequacy to let go of the past. Together, Jung-ah and Hyuk-Kwon’s character dynamics strive to unearth deep-rooted, therapeutical hurdles and they accomplish just that with the help of influential costars, especially in the 9-year-old actress Shin Rin-Ah. The sweet, fresh face of Rin-Ah Shin becomes the ultimate deception, a suspected sheep in wolf skin, that this pint-sized bundle of cuteness could be the family’s undoing. The cast rounds out with Heo Jin, Bang Yu-seol, and Lee Jun-hyeok.
Now while “The Mimic,” not to be titularly confused with Guillermo del Toro’s “Mimic,” is laced with unsettling camera angles and bottom-popping jump scares, the embodied Jangsan Tiger regrettably places the Huh Jung one notch lower on the proverbial grade scale. The shaman’s body, a rather thick individual, has been possessed by the Jangsan Tiger that’s been depicted covered with stringy white coat, long arms and legs like a sloth, a tiger-like maxilla and jowl on a human-esque face, and with cold, blank eyes. Instead, the Jangsan Tiger remains in human form throughout with subtle changes that reference the tiger; for example, the horizontal white fur on each side of the shaman’s rather gnarly face. Transformation effects just don’t do the antagonist justice and, frankly, should have kept the shaman a wretched shell of himself, spawning through mirror gateways, ever reaching to touch the next soul to digest, but when Hee-yeon and her husband enter the labyrinth Mr. Jang cave system, the shaman is a rabid dog, a ravenous trickster, but not as ferocious as the description might sound.
Arriving on Digital & Blu-ray June 12, Well Go USA Entertainment distributes “The Mimic” onto an unrated, 1080p Blu-ray presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, and the image suffers no compression issues, has a fine palette that more-or-less of a blue or yellow hue, and has a leveled up bitrate. The 100 minute runtime feature has a Korean 5.1 surround sound DTS-HD Master Audio that’s effective with the Jangsan’s imitation lures. The waterfall rain and echoing animal ambient tracks are spot on with range and depth. Optional English subtitles are available and, considering the film’s duration, are considerable accurate and timely, but I did manage to catch one error where “leaves” was typed instead of “lives” where appropriate in the context of the sentence. Extras are slim with a cursory making of featurette and the film’s original trailer. “The Mimic” revels in South Korean lore, even if it’s a variation of, and the menacing atmospheric and audio cues exhibit a precision that’s a testament to director Huh Jung’s psychological spook show filmmaking, but the build up behind the mysterious small girl, the bricked cave, and the alluring voices are quickly summed up with meretricious humanoid value instead of a mystical and enchanting beast.
In a small South Korean village, tight-knit families practically know one another in the quaint middle-class community. When mysteriously deadly destructions from inside local families and strange stories of animal carcass devouring creatures in the woods surface, local police sergeant Jong-Goo begins an investigation to connect a pattern of violence and superstition and at the center of it all is a suspicious and reclusive Japanese traveller. Bound by the law and an overall lack of courage, Jong-Goo proceeds to investigate with extreme caution, but when his young daughter, Hyo-jin, becomes subjected to the same symptoms that overtook destroyed families from within, the desperate father sets aside rules and regulations and uses threats and force when visiting the Japanese Stranger, whose rumored to be an evil spirit that’s plaguing the small village with terror and death.
By far, “The Wailing” sets the precedent on folklore horror. Acclaimed writer-director Hong-jin Na lands a harrowingly ambitious, well-constructed film right into the lap of horror fans with “The Wailing,” known also as “Goksung” in the film’s country of South Korea. South Korean filmmakers have once reestablished proof that foreign films can be as masterful, as bold, and as elegant when compared to any other film from major studio productions. Hollywood has started to come around by remaking one of South Korea’s most notorious films, the vengeful thriller “Oldboy,” and seeks to remake recent international hits in “Train to Buscan” and “I Saw the Devil.” Lets also touch upon that top Hollywood actors are beginning to branch out to South Korean films. “Captain America” star Chris Evans had obtained a starring role in Joon-ho Bong’s “Snowpiercer” alongside co-stars Ed Harris and the late British actor Sir John Hurt. “The Wailing” will reach similar popularity being one of 2016’s most original horror movies and one of the more unique visions of terror to clutch the heart of my all time favorite’s list.
Do-won Kwak stars as Sergeant Jong-Goo, a officer who avoids trouble at all costs and has no motivation to be on time for anything. Kwak, basically, plays the fool character, comically going through the routine of investigating brutal murders complete with stabbings, burnings, and hangings despite his Captain’s constant chastising and seizes every opportunity to act dumb and look stupid, but once the story starts to focus “The Wailing” as nothing more than an offbeat black-comedy, Hong-ja Na devilishly about-faces with a severe turn of events that’s a mixed bag of genres. Kwak no longer plays the lead role of comic relief; instead, a more self-confident Sergeant Jong-Goo takes control of the investigation as the deeper he finds himself involved in the dark plague that’s ravaging his village. He hunts down the Japanese Stranger, the debut South Korean film for long time Japanese actor Jun Kunimura (“Kill Bill,” Takashi Miike’s “Audition”) with a zen like aurora that’s enormously haunting to behold and captivating when his presence is lurking amongst the scene. Though Kunimura’s demeanor contrasts with other actors, he’s very much in tune with the dynamic, but it’s the maniacally, foul-mouth ravings of Hyo-jin, played by Hwan-hee Kim, that stand out and are the most distraught during her possession state that could give “The Exorcist” a run for it’s money and is a visceral vice grip to the soul that has to be experienced. Woo-hee Chun and Jung-min Hwang round out the cast in their respective and memorable co-starring roles as a peculiar no named woman and a flashy shaman.
“The Wailing” incorporates various folklore stemming from cultures all over the world including the Koreas, China, Japan, and even from China’s bordering neighbor Nepal and meshes them with religious practices of Buddhism to even the far corners that the Catholic faith possesses. The luxuriant green South Korean mountain backdrop sets an isolated, ominous cloud over a beautiful and serene archaic village, an awe-inspiring juxtaposition created by cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong that coincides with the complete dread piercing through the heart of the story; a perspective vastly opposite to Hong’s works in the previously mentioned “Snowpiercer” that’s set in the tight confines of a class dividing bullet train. “The Wailing” bundles together mythos with visionary concepts and landscapes in an epic mystery-thriller that’s unforgettable; it will cling to you, like a evil-dwelling spirit, well after the film is over.
20th Century Fox, in association with Ivanhoe Pictures and Side Mirror, produce Hong-jin Na’s top horror contender “The Wailing” with Well Go USA and Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment distributing on DVD and Blu-ray. Unfortunately, I was provided with a DVD-R screener and can’t specifically comment on specifications and image or audio quality. Accompanying the screener were two bonus features: a behind-the-scenes featurette and the beginning tale of “The Wailing” featurette. Both were fairly informative that gives insight on Hong-jin Na’s mindset and how the director’s ambitious story in a malignant tale of comedy, horror, and mysterious involving demons, shamans, and, quite possibly, the devil himself. “The Wailing” significantly captivates, sucking you into the darkness with an uncanny amount of pull with a story too terrifyingly original to avert and too thick with vigorous characters in a plot twist too harrowing to forget.