Thursday, March 14, 2024

Exhuma: Feng Shui Horror

Feng Shui is one of those things you can’t help believing in when its bad. At this secluded grave site, it is really, really awful. A shaman, a geomancer, and their crony-partners (walk into a bar and then) rather ill-advisedly disinter the remains, but that will be a profound mistake in director-screenwriter Jang Jae-hyun’s Exhuma, which opens tomorrow in theaters.

Something is tormenting the latest infant scion if a wealthy Korean-American family. Apparently, it recently finished off the father’s older bother and has moved on to the firstborn of the next generation. At least that is what Hwa-rim sensed. She is the shaman recruited by the Korean wing of the family. It turns out the great-grandfather is the likely supernatural culprit, but she will need the help of a veteran geomancer, like crusty old Kim Sang-deuk, to fight him.

Lately, Kim and his undertaker-sidekick Ko Young-geun have been scraping out a living by selling Feng Shui-vetted grave-sites, but he knows his stuff. According to the boy’s father, the mean old man was buried in an unmarked grave on eerie-looking mountain, on the advice of a dubious Japanese monk. Frankly, Kim never scouted there, because the vibes are so bad. However, Hwa-kim and her assistant/vessel Bong-gil are convinced the
  four can perform a cleansing ritual and then whisk the body away for cremation, but, of course, it will not be so easy.

Along with Na Hong-jin’s
The Wailing, Exhuma proves Korean Shamanic horror can be as potent as Catholic demonic horror. Exhuma is not quite as unhinged as Na’s film, but it has a quite slow-building eeriness that is distinctive. There are no jump scares, just loads of atmosphere and creepy lore.

Choi Min-sik is as compulsively watchable as ever (if not more so) as the salty, rumpled Kim. Prolific character actor Yoo Hai-jin is appropriately jittery as Ko, but never to a shticky extent (which isn’t always the case for Yoo). Kim Go-eun counterbalances them nicely as the cool, standoffish Hwa-rim. Bong-gil is not fully fleshed out as the other three anima-spirit-busters, but Lee Do-hyun has some amazing freakouts.

Besides some weird bogeyman effects,
Exhuma looks great. Lee Mo-gae’s cinematography is darkly stylish and the dank mountain landscape just radiates evil vibrations. Jang is developing quite a track record as horror filmmaker, nicely building on The Priests and 12th Assistant Deacon, the short film it was expanded from. Instead of cheap thrills, Exhuma is a horror film for fans who really appreciate the themes of the genre and a neatly crafted supernatural yarn. Highly recommended, Exhuma opens tomorrow (3/15) in Los Angeles at the CGV Cinemas.