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Director: Park Jin-sung
Screenplay: Park Jin-sung, Park Jin-suk
Cast: Jung Seung-kil, Lim Ji-young, Hwang Tak-ha, Kim Doo-yong
Producers: Bae Young-kook, Yun Il-joong
Distributor: M-Line Distribution
It all begins with an image, that of a woman crossing the floor of a room on her hands and knees. It’s an audition tape. A director has found the perfect actress for his cinematic adaptation of VIY. That’s where the obsession begins. He’s abusive towards her on the set but when night falls, he shadows her across the city. Madness is setting in. The director believes he truly knows this stranger—for she is the witch in his script.
The second act takes place amid a theatrical production of VIY. Though the play is without props or special effects, a palpable sense of dread settles over the proceedings and the otherworldly begins to seem frighteningly real.
The final chapter follows a blind musician as each night, he meets up with a small troupe preparing a puppet show inspired by VIY. These nocturnal activities attract the attention of a friend of the blind man, who discovers a terrible secret.
While film fans have had their eyes glued on Russia, where a remake of VIY (Fantasia 2006) is in the works, South Korea surprises again with its own adaptation of the famous novel by Nikolai Gogol. Newcomer Park Jin-sung displays tremendous audacity in appropriating one of the most celebrated works in Russian literature. In fact, some rigid disciples of Gogol’s may well find Park’s film insulting, even blasphemous. They needn’t fret—EVIL SPIRIT: VIY doesn’t pretend to be a faithful repetition of the tale, but nonetheless captures its spirit perfectly with an engrossing triptych of tales that are distinct in form but united thematically. Park delivers a rarity in horror cinema, a film in which the artistic process is revealed and brought to the fore—which hardly diminishes the fear the film instills. There’s a hint of Lars Von Trier in the film’s conceit, which is to present the story of Viy three times in different settings. The excellent cast returns for each of the three acts to portray alternate versions of the same characters. An uncanny cross between the art film and J-horror, EVIL SPIRIT: VIY frightens and fascinates. Let yourself be engulfed by this intense and unpredictable cinematic experience offering only one certainty—that you’ll see nothing else like it this year. Gogol himself would have approved!