metamorphosis | hong-seon kim | sung-woo bae | dong-il sung | young-nam jang | possession | exorcism | exorcist | demon | thriller | south korea | hye-jun kim | yi-hyun cho | kang-hoo kim | jeon mi do | se-hee kim | kwi-seon kim | dae-han ji | archi adamos | yun-shik baek
Film: Metamorphosis (Byeonshin)
Director: Hong-seon Kim
Starring: Sung-Woo Bae, Dong-il Sung and Young-nam Jang
For this movie, I remember hearing about it when it hit Shudder. It was part of a drop on there where they released a grouping that was all getting pretty favorable reviews. Some of the horror groups I’m in, people were asking to fill in movies for their year-end list with some titles. I saw this one popping up in those and felt that it made an interesting double feature for Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. The synopsis here is an evil spirit that changes faces infiltrates one family placing one brother in danger while the other tries to save him.
We start this movie off with an exorcism. There’s a raven outside watching what is happening and the priest performing it is Joong-soo (Sung-Woo Bae). The girl’s name is is Ji-eun (Se-hee Kim). Her mother, Jeon Mi Do, is praying and then watching in horror. This sequence is very reminiscent of The Exorcist and the entity within Ji is making her rot and her eyes have a bright green hue. Things don’t go as planned as Ji ends up falling out of the window of her upstairs room. Joong catches her hand and she mocks him before falling to her death.
This event ruins Joong. He is living in disgrace for failing to save the girl. There are repercussions to his family as well. His brother is Gang-goo (Dong-il Sung) and he’s married to Myung-joo (Young-nam Jang). They have to move, because of what happened with his brother. They have three children with them that are feeling it as well. The eldest is Sun-woo (Hye-jun Kim). She had to leave college due to it, but she’s doing her best to keep the family together. Hyun-joo (Yi-Hyun Cho) is the middle child. She is being bullied at school and it causing her to be angry. Then there is Woo-jong (Kang-Hoon Kim) who is the youngest and their only son.
They move into a new house and the family seems to have turned their back on religion. All of the religious icons are in a box marked Joong that is kept in the basement. As they go about making this place feel like home, we see they have an odd neighbor of Jacob (Dae-han Ji). He creates issues that he has a fabric maker he runs at night and he’s not very nice. This draws Gang to go over to his house to speak with him, but what he finds inside scares him. There are dead chickens that are hanging from the ceiling along with upside down crosses.
We start then to see something is up with this family from here. Hyun sees her father looking over her while she’s in bed and makes a weird comment that makes her uncomfortable. Sun doesn’t believe he would say these things and this makes Hyun uncomfortable in feeling alone. There’s an odd scene as well where Myung is ignoring her family and then scolds Woo to the point that it makes him cry. Later that day when Gang comes home, she doesn’t remember what happened and said that she was out. Things then get violent amongst them. It appears that these members of the family are doing it, but are they? Is Jacob involved? When things get too much, they try to bring in Joong, but he’s broken from what happened. He has to decide if he will let them lose themselves or find his faith.
That’s where I want to leave my recap of this movie since anything more would go into spoiler territory. What I did notice while watching this is that it feels like a South Korean take on The Exorcist. There are a few scenes that feel very much like that older classic in here for sure. That opening sequence definitely feels like the ending of the other. It doesn’t hurt my viewing of this movie, but something that I wanted to bring up here.
Where to go next would be the basic premise of this movie. This is of course a possession film, if stating that it reminded me of the other one didn’t give that away. I really like the take on this demon we get here. Now later in the movie, they’re stating it is Satan himself, but that really doesn’t matter to me either way. This demon is interesting that it takes on the form of people in the family, which creates division amongst them as they don’t know who they can trust and it hurts deep to think your family member would try to kill you. There are a couple of really creepy sequences that really sucked me in with Gang attacking his daughters and then Myung when they realize the identity of someone. The not knowing who is possessed or who is really themselves adds a dimension for me for sure.
Now there is also the idea of religion in this movie that I want to address. Joong is a Catholic priest which I find interesting here. Many of these films from South Korea I’ve seen really show more of the traditional religion of the area. We’re seeing a more Western idea using Christianity. The movie also shifts over to Manila, Philippines where we meet Father Batlhazar (Yun-shik Beak). A video of him doing an exorcism is also shown. There’s an interesting question posed as to why there’s always anger before someone is possessed and that is an idea, I’m glad was brought up. It makes sense, even more so as the family is upset with Joong and the pain it has caused their family. Plus they’ve turned their back on the Christian beliefs due to that anger.
Next I think I should go to the acting. Bae is solid as this preist. Even though there’s a direct mirror here, for two different reasons, to the Father Karras from The Exorcist. I think it works well to have him questioning his faith. He needs to find himself in order to help his family and it makes sense the ultimate sacrifice he makes. Sung is also really good as this father. I like we get at least a glimpse into this family before they fall apart and it seems like they are happy, just strained. Jang is good as the mother. I’ll admit, I had a bit of trouble telling Kim and Cho apart, but that’s a credit to the movie as they could be sisters. I really like how they’re both so different. Sun is doing what she can to keep the family together where Hyun really feels like that middle child who is dealing with a lot. Kang-Hoon Kim was also solid as this little brother. He shows some really good emotion which did touch my heart. The rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed as well.
From here I want to go to the effects. There seemed to be a lot of practical effects going on. The exorcism scenes are somewhat brutal and the effects there looked good. They did make me cringe a bit. I like the effect to make those possessed be seen that way. There is a bit of blood and gore I wasn’t expecting as well. They did elect to use some CGI in this movie as well. There are some with birds that didn’t look great. There is also glass through a foot that made me cringe, but doesn’t necessarily hold up either. Doesn’t ruin the movie, but I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the CGI. The cinematography was good though aside from this.
So now with that said this movie was really good actually. I’m glad that I didn’t pass over this as I do feel this is really a contender for my year end list. It isn’t necessarily the most original story, but what this demon does really does set it apart. The family dynamic was really good and that brings some good heart with it. The acting performances really do help to carry this movie. The practical effects were really good and although I didn’t love the CGI, not all of it was bad. Soundtrack here also doesn’t necessarily stand out, but it also doesn’t hurt the movie in my opinion. Overall, I’d say this is a good movie. I will warn you; this is in Korea where I watched it with subtitles. If that is an issue, I’d avoid. For those that aren’t bothered, we have a solid possession/exorcism movie.
My Rating: 8 out of 10