Fantasia 2018: THE WITCH: PART 1. THE SUBVERSION Review – Telekinetic Charm Meets Superpowered Bloodbath - Dread Central
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Fantasia 2018: THE WITCH: PART 1. THE SUBVERSION Review – Telekinetic Charm Meets Superpowered Bloodbath

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Starring Kim Da-mi, Cho Min-soo, Park Hee-soon, Choi Woo-shik

Written by Park Hoon-jung

Directed by Park Hoon-jung


Created in a genetic research lab, Ja-yoon (Kim Da-mi) was designed from birth to become a weapon. She utilizes her powerful telekinesis to escape from the facility where she was engineered, only to lose all memories of that night’s carnage. A rural farming couple takes her in where she grows into a smart, modest high school student. Thanks to her amnesia, she has no idea of how truly powerful she is. When Ja-yoon gains national recognition by winning a televised singing contest, she is recognized by the agency that created her. And now they want their property back.

This film must be explained in two halves. The first is primarily a lighthearted, teenage drama. The second is a fantastical bloodbath of superpowers. Between the bubbly performances and adolescent humor in the first half, it’s easy to forget the violence surrounding it. After the pop-drama concludes, the second half pays off in a spectacle of telekinetic mayhem. Plus, there’s some nifty twists and turns that make Ja-yoon’s re-discovery of her powers oh-so-glorious.

The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion (I will never get used to typing that) stirs ontological questions surrounding the classic nature versus nurture debate. Does her underlying genetic code make her a monster, poised to rip apart the room when cornered? Or did her surrogate parents’ care and compassion create an unshakable foundation for kindness? The answer is complicated. Just when you think you’ve decoded Ja-yoon, your understanding will surely change again.

The film’s journey is anchored by a textured portrayal from newcomer Kim Da-Mi. In her expressive eyes, she carries the burden of unspeakable violence underneath an empathetic naivete. She’s bashful and timorous yet harbors a veiled darkness. The battle between her life as a meek farm girl and superpowered assassin is worn across her face. This performance is pivotal to the aforementioned plot shifts, making Kim Da-Mi’s representation of Ja-yoon the film’s linchpin.

I found myself regretfully aware of The Witch’s 126-minute showtime. The adolescent charm of watching Ja-yoon banter with her impossibly silly friend wore off. After Ja-yoon’s world was established, it was obviously leading towards a confrontation between her nefarious creators and a revival of her telekinetic abilities. It takes far too long for that conflict to develop, but once it does, the film shines.

The last hour of The Witch makes up for the sluggishness that precedes. The action sequences are beautifully shot, tightly edited, and just really damn cool. Director Park Hoon-jung, who wrote vicious masterpiece I Saw the Devil, proves once again that he knows how to craft jaw-clenching, eyes-to-the-back-of-your-head violence. The contrast between the playful innocence of the pop-fused introduction and the blood-splattered conclusion is one of the reasons why I adore Korean cinema. Even if I wanted the action to unfold sooner, I walked away from the film with a sense of reward. And now I want Part 2.

  • The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion
3.5

Summary

The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion is a whole lotta’ movie. It requires patience, as it lulls you into a connection with the characters’ hopes and dreams, before it explodes your expectations with the force of a telekinetic mindmelt.

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