Thursday, July 02, 2020

Shudder: Metamorphosis

Catholic exorcists and Jedi masters agree anger is a singularly dangerous emotion that can make you prey for dark forces. Instead of anger, it is inexperience and self-doubt that plague Father Joong-soo. Unfortunately, his problems will become his resentful family’s problems after an exorcism goes horribly wrong in Kim Hong-sun’s Metamorphosis, which premieres today on Shudder.

The negative press surrounding Joong-soo’s failed exorcism during the prologue was so bad, it forced his brother Gang-goo to relocate his family. However, the worst part for the priest was the death of the possessed girl, right after the demon used her tongue to threaten his family. They do not want anything to do with him (except his young nephew) and he wants to keep his distance from just about everyone. Yet, when the demon starts terrorizing them in the guise of other family members, they are forced to turn to humble Uncle Joong-soo. Of course, he does not believe he can face the evil entity on his own, so he calls in his mentor from the exorcising hotspot of the Philippines.

K-horror has a knack for doing demonic possession, perhaps because Catholicism is widely practiced and also resented across South Korea, so it taps into some deeply held anxieties. Metamorphosis is nearly as scary as The Divine Fury and The Priests, but it arguably takes even darker and more disturbing turns. Kim shows no mercy towards Joong-soo and his family, so brace yourself.

Bae Sung-woo is terrific as the good uncle but bad priest, in what could be his best work since Office. As a portrayal of a faith-challenged exorcist, it bears comparison with Jason Miller’s Father Karras in the big daddy of all exorcist films. Equally important, Sung Dong-il and Jang Young-nam are totally chilling when playing the demonic doppelgangers of parents Gang-goo and Myung-joo. They also effectively hint at all kinds of strained marital subtext, so we can believe the devil has material to work with. Plus, Kim Hye-jun and Kim Kang-hoon look genuinely and profoundly terrified as the younger teen daughter and the little brother.

Admittedly, there are a few script issues, such as the business with the likely possessed next-door neighbor, which is not fully fleshed out. However, the cumulative impact of Metamorphosis is absolutely exhausting—and darned scary. It is the kind of horror movie that gets under your skin rather than making you look under the bed. Highly recommended for fans of K-horror and Catholic-themed exorcism movies, Metamorphosis starts streaming today (7/2), on Shudder.