Friday, November 6, 2015

Film Review: The Wicked (2014)

The Wicked (aka Ma-nyeo) (Review)
Yoo Young-seon/Park Joo-hee/2014
Where To Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...takes you on a twisted journey through the depths of a sinister psyche."

As she settles into her new workplace, Se-young (Park Joo-hee), a devious introvert, finds herself bumping heads with Lee-sun (Na Soo-yoon), her snide boss...

The Wicked begins with Lee-sun scolding Se-young about her poor work ethic. The pair make a bet: if Se-young does not finish her work by the end of the day, she owes a finger to Lee-sun; if she does finish her work, then Lee-sun will owe a finger to Se-young. Well, Se-young finishes her work and demands her finger. However, Lee-sun manages to squirm her way out of the bet, but decides to pursue the issue. She insists on finding dirt to use against Se-young — despite Se-young's erratic behavior.. To her utter surprise, she finds a web of violence and deceit. Is Se-young possessed by a ghost? Is she a psychopath? The film leads to a disturbing ending.

The Wicked is a great horror-thriller. The story is very dark and uncompromising with a pinch of black humor. The strong focus on Se-young and Lee-sun, especially for the former, allows for a very effective experience. It also adds a pinch of mystery to the film. Lee-sun's investigation leads her to many of Se-young's former colleagues — each with their story to tell. I found myself very engaged in this mystery. The film also conjures some very suspenseful scenes and delivers some cringe-worthy violence. It is certainly a very wicked and twisted experience. The pacing and narrative balance are also great — it uses its 90 minutes efficiently.

I found a few notable issues with the film, though. The story telling is very fragmented — it's riddled with a plethora of flashbacks. The flashbacks are helpful in creating the mystery and they don't muddle the film with confusion, but they often felt unnecessary or out of place. For example, I understand the flashbacks when Lee-sun talks to Se-young's colleagues, but the entire first half of the film is filled with flashbacks to school scenes that weren't actually initiated. On that point, although some flashbacks are elaborated on, some aren't very detailed. Finally, I felt the tension between Se-young and Lee-sun didn't reach it's maximum effectiveness because it started at the peak right off the bat – we only see one day with this pair together and they're already at each others' throats. These issues don't cripple the film, but they are worth noting.

The acting was great, though. I especially enjoyed Park Joo-hee's performance. She is filled with sinister energy, every facial expression is devious. Na Soo-yoon plays the snarky boss well, too. The supporting cast is also good. The cinematography is fairly standard, nothing stood out as excellent or bad. The music choice was interesting. Sometimes the music was ominous, then it could be frolicsome — it certainly helped in creating some funny moments, but it can also interfere with the atmosphere. Writer and director Yoo Young-seon conjures great suspense while using themes of loneliness and abandonment to bolster the script.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Wicked. It's a very dark and even compelling thriller. It takes you on a twisted journey through the depths of a sinister psyche. There are some things that felt a little underwhelming, though. If you love dark Korean thrillers, I think you'll enjoy this one. By the way, I'm not really sure about the marketing for this film. From the posters I've seen, it seems a little deceptive. I suppose it matches the character, right?

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, including some torture.

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