Originally titled Yeo-gok-seong, The Wrath is a brisk shift into the horror movie season. It is a direct remake of the 1986 Korean horror film Woman’s Wail that follows the same premise and setting.
Although this is my first review of a foreign film, this is also my first taste of Korean horror. After this one, I think I need more.
There was never a time in the film where I thought it veered off focus or took a drastic turn like a lot of modern American horror films like to do these days. Everything happened very linear and straight to the point, which I really appreciated. The director just wants to stick to what is happening right in front of us and not dwell too much on the details or the past. We get a glimpse of it in order to understand the issue at hand, but it’s not something that gets picked apart for the rest of the film with a bunch of different emotional ties to it. However, I did find issue with the chemistry of the actors at times. I feel like they are sometimes acting at each other and at the camera, rather than being in the scene. Still, I’m very interested in seeing more of Young-son’s work, like his 2014 debut called The Wicked.
A young servant named Ok-boon is set to marry the remaining living son of a high-ranking figure within the Joseon dynasty during 14th century Korea. Two sons have already died, so Madame Shin, her mother-in-law, hopes this marriage will end the curse set upon her family by an evil scorned woman. She oversees Ok-boon along with the other two daughter in laws, who don’t take a liking to her. When her new husband as well as other people in the kingdom start dying off more and more, Ok-boon realizes she is the one now being haunted by the ghost of a scorned woman. With the help of a friendly exorcist hired by the family, Ok-boon does everything in her power to keep her and her baby safe. I normally get really bored with simple ghost stories, but this one really had me the whole way through. I really dug the simplicity and was so distracted by all the set design and too worried about the ghost that I completely didn’t see the twist coming, although I should have. I appreciate a story that can stay on track as long as its effective, even if it’s simple or slightly predictive.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
This cast was pretty solid for the most part. The biggest weakness was Ok-boon’s character played by Son Na-eun. She was okay, but the crazier the story became, the less reaction she gave. I hate to say it, but it was a very flat and underwhelming performance. Perhaps this is just how her character is supposed to be and I just didn’t like it. However, I did discover she is a singer, part of a Korean pop group called Apink, which is pretty dope. My favorite performance was the exorcist, Hae Cheon-Bi played by Lee Tae-Ri. He was so dope, yet graceful and completely owned the performance. Madame Shin played by Seo Young-hee was cold and unnerving at times holding up the bulk of the film. I’m giving it half because the lead’s performance really didn’t do much for me. The rest of the cast was tolerable and did the job, but I can’t shake how many times I was straight bored with her performance.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The sound was one of the most effective aspects of the film. When the ghost’s light appears, the first sense of her is this little ding, which sounds like a little text reminder. Like an announcement that she is there. She isn’t sneaking up on Ok-boon out of nowhere every time. Another sound we hear is her laugh, telling us she is in the room. We rarely see the ghost, but we hear her every time. I don’t know about you, but my fear feeds on sudden and ominous noises. If I heard some shrieking laugh down my hallway, I would die right then and there, end of movie.
The set design was gorgeous with crisp contrast and a red/purple/gold/black color scheme that fits perfectly into the time. One of my favorite parts about the set design was the trees in the forest with the white and red cloth strips hanging from the branches. It kinda reminded me of toilet paper, but it was somehow very haunting the more I saw them. The cinematography blew me away in the very beginning, but throughout the film it felt like there were two other cinematographers. We have these captivating modern static shots of the exteriors. Then in the house we get these jarring and unmotivated dutch angles with heavy black contrast. THEN, we have several sped up run and go shots in the forest that are from the spirits perspective running back into the forest. The “running” shots were cool, and normally I don’t mind a style switch, but this felt like too many styles and kinda all over the place. The shots of the ghost in the bedroom were CREEPY. When we don’t see her in form, we see a red light illuminate the wall behind Ok-boon, which made my skin crawl every time. Also, the actors straight up spitting the blood out of their mouths like stale milk was truly the cherry on top to those gory scenes.
If this review feels a little all over the place, that’s because my brain is all over the place with this film. I really liked it. However, there are many different things I liked here that I wouldn’t necessarily accept in an American horror film, like the simple story line for example. I get bored easily, but that didn’t happen. I don’t normally like obnoxious blood spitting either, but I loved it here. It’s also very interesting to watch a horror movie with subtitles and still be able to understand what's going on based on carefully placed sound and visual queues, even if you’re not reading them the whole time. If you’re really into Asian-style horror, or want to dip your toes into it, I suggest starting with this one, streaming now on Shudder!