Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Witch: Subversion—Always Beware of Movie Orphans

There is no gifted & talented program sufficient for Koo Ja-yoon’s remarkable abilities. She can sing, dance, and get top grades without studying. She is also an adopted orphan, so you know what that means. Unfortunately, Young’s creators are out to bring her back into their shadowy fold in screenwriter-director Park Hoon-jung’s The Witch: Subversion (originally, there was a “Part 1” in there), which releases today on DVD.

Koo came along at a fortuitous time for an older couple still mourning their son and grandson. Technically, she escaped from the Skinner-Box-ish lab, where she was conditioned and enhanced. It was some sort of government-corporate co-venture that was forced to liquidate when the bosses got wind of how dangerous she is. If there was any question on that score, her relentlessly violent escape should put all doubts to rest.

For years, Ja-yoon grows up happily with the Koos, with all her traumatic memories apparently buried by her subconscious. Unfortunately, her mini-seizures are gaining in intensity, but the real trouble comes when she successfully auditions for an Idol-style talent contest, where naturally she becomes an overnight favorite. She also attracts the attention of the re-constituted cabal.

Honestly, at this point, the murky conspiracy stuff is dull and derivative. We’ve seen it all before, and it is usually easier to distinguish the faceless co-conspirators and their competing factions. Likewise, there is a long stretch between Koo’s initial escape and the inevitable fateful confrontation that drags interminably. Still, Park springs a few third act revelations on viewers that are clever and really pretty shocking.

Newcomer Kim Da-mi is also quite impressive as Koo. She can go from a shy, self-conscious teenager to the younger analog of Kim Ok-bin in The Villainess, in about ten seconds flat. Choi Woo-sik (from Parasite) and Da-Eun also display some nifty action chops as the “witches” pursuing her. Plus, Jo Min-soo chews all the scenery in her vicinity with haughty, elitist relish as the evil lead scientist.

Park really should have tightened up the mid-section and trimmed at least twenty minutes out of the unnecessarily long 125-minute running time. Nevertheless, when the violent action kicks in, it is quite a spectacle to behold. Recommended for the last half hour, which is really all you need to watch (genre fans can easily fill in the blanks), The Witch: Subversion releases today (3/10) on DVD, from Well Go USA.