Tribeca Review: Possessed

I give it a year. A year until what, you ask? A year until an American movie studio buys the rights to remake Possessed, the newest Korean horror film from writer-director Lee Young-ju. Much like many of the other Asian horror remakes that have been made in this last few years, it will also be insipid and boring, using the exact same elements seen in movies of the type. Only this time it won’t be the studio’s, the writer’s or even the director’s fault: you can only do so much with bad source material.

Hee-jin (Sang-mi Nam) is a woman living in Seoul, Korea. After receiving a mysterious call from her sister, So-jin (Shim Eun-kyung), she receives a call from her devout Christian mother that the young girl has disappeared. Despite protests from her mom, Hee-jin enlists the help of police detective Tae-hwan (Seung-yong Ryoo), an investigation begins to find the missing sibling. The problem? Neighbors from around the apartment complex say that the girl was possessed and begin mysteriously killing themselves one by one.

The film’s greatest flaw is its complete lack of originality. Starting with the fact that the horror figure in question is a little child, the tropes continue in the form of herky-jerky movements, creaking bones, and rolled-back eyes. Just as is in Ringu, Ju-on and countless others, the protagonist is once again a female that knows how to creep around just quiet enough that the fiftieth cheap jump scare will give audience members whiplash. Young-ju takes no time to develop tension in the scenes, entirely relying on hanging bodies to suddenly appear outside the window. The plot again relies entirely on mysticism elements, with curses, shamans and assorted demonry, some characters being devout believes while others remain skeptics. That is, until they witness some witchcraft that makes them change deities.

The film is the first from Young-ju, but what makes matters worse is that he has previously worked as an assistant director with Bong Joon-ho, who has made a name for himself with two of the best films to come out of South Korea in the last two years in The Host and Mother. It is apparent that Young-ju learned nothing from that experience, however, particularly in the way of creativity.

If you have seen any generic K-horror from the past few years, you have already seen Possessed. The ending leaves audiences with a cliffhanger that will undoubtedly lead to a sequel, but let’s hope that it doesn’t make its way over here.

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Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.