Friday, June 16, 2023

Seire, 21 Days of K-Horror

According to traditional Korean beliefs, it is best to keep newborn babies and their parents sequestered for the first twenty-one days, to prevent contamination from evil spirits and taboo-related bad vibes. If that sounds ridiculous, try arguing the point from the 13th floor of a New York high-rise built within the last twenty years. Obviously, we humor some superstitions in the West. Woo-jin takes the same approach towards his wife Hae-min and her super-superstitious mother. However, when he attends his ex’s funeral against Hae-min’s wishes, he brings home something sinister in Park Kang’s Seire, which releases today on VOD.

Woo-jin is rather surprised to find himself here. One year prior, he broke up with his long-term girlfriend Se-young, because of rather profoundly differing relationship goals. Yet, after marrying Hae-min (rather quickly), here Woo-jin is—a new father. Then he gets a text announcing Se-young’s funeral.

Hae-min urgently argues against Woo-jin attending, but he feels dutybound to go. Much to his surprise, Se-young has, or rather had, a perfectly identical twin, Ye-young. It is incredibly awkward, for reasons that are largely his fault. When he gets home, strange things start happening. First their fruit takes a rotten turn. Soon, Hae-min insists Woo-jin engage in drastic folk remedies, but he is distracted by a suspicious chance encounter with Ye-young.

As horror films go, the slow burn of
Seire is particularly slow, but the burn scorches deeply. This is an incredibly dark and moody film, because Park’s execution is unusually accomplished, especially for a feature debut. Credit should also go to Hwang Gyeong-hyeon’s forebodingly atmospheric cinematography.

Sometimes Seo Hyun-woo is almost too reserved as Woo-jin from a cinematic perspective, but that is part of what facilitates his implosion. Ryu Abel is also quiet, but in an eerie way as Se/Ye-young.

is the sort of horror film that is better described as unsettling rather than scary. Yet, by that standard, it is hugely effective. You really, really wouldn’t want to be a character in this film. Recommended for fans of “elevated” horror, Seire releases today (6/16) on VOD.