Sang Mi Chu
Horror / Sci Fi
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The Soul Guardians (Toemarok) (1998)
3rd Nov 05
Religious warriors fight to prevent the reincarnation of Satan on Earth.
Ever get a sense that a movie has bitten off more than it can chew? Well, that appears to be the case with this awfully constructed novel adaptation from director Park Kwang-Chun. Not quite knowing what it type of film it wants to be - horror, sci-fi, action, cop thriller - it runs about in all directions like a headless genre and by the time it's over, you may need to watch the 'Making of' extra on the disc in an attempt to pursue some sense of it all. Prepare to be disappointed however because the 'Making of' is merely an insomniac-curing interview with the man who made this frustratingly incoherent effort. Oh, and the English subtitle translations on the interview are so confusing that you may need an additional translator on hand to help you through it. Oh dear.
The story concerns Satan's reincarnation through the body of Seung-Hee, a 20-year-old woman who was born from the womb of a survivor of a Satanic cult, almost all of whom committed mass suicide. Her mother died during the birth and the remaining survivors of the suicide are being killed during the present day. The doctor who delivered Seung-Hee is now a priest who, along with his son and Hyun-Am - a warrior who wields a magical sword - have vowed to stop Satan's reincarnation and subsequent ruling of the world at all costs, even if it means committing what looks like cold blooded murder.
This story is quite strong and may seem original but it's not far removed from what we've seen in End of Days and even Highlander to some extent. One of it's main objectives however, is to scare, and apart from a handful of almost effective creepy shots, the film fails miserably in this department. There's also a lack of credibility at the core - a sense of not being able to take these supposedly important events and characters seriously; a criticism completely confirmed by a ridiculously tacky ending involving Seung-Hee's manifestation as Satan, which comes off looking more like a pissed-off Goth teenager than the Lord of Hellfire.
On a positive note, director Park does come up with one or two impressive sequences and overall the film looks quite slick, featuring some stunning photography. The character of the priest, Father Park, is adequately developed but warrior Hyun-am's relationship with his magical sword, which carries the soul of his lost love, leaves many unanswered questions, as do many other aspects of the story and characters. If the filmmakers think that a showcase of Korean CGI effects will do anything to detract our attention from this, they're wrong. This is an unfocused mess, but still manages to show occasional glimpses of promise from its first-time director. Fans of Asian horror will no doubt find something they like here.
If you want magical swords, watch Hawk the Slayer instead. It's got Jack Palance in it.