Fantasia 2018: The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion [Review]
After its international premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, South Korean director Park Hoon-jung brought to the audience a gritty action thriller titled The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion. The film takes place in a world where kids have been genetically engineered by a sinister government agency, and later on they acquire dangerous powers. One of the test subjects named Ja-yoon (Kim Da-mi) escapes the facility at a young age and eventually gets adopted into a nice and loving family that takes care of her. While she seemingly has no memory of her past whatsoever, her creator Dr. Baek (Jo Min-su) has been wanting to find and capture her. While it is undeniably a simple plot, it’s actually really entertaining for the most part.
Newcomer actress Kim Da-mi plays the lead role of Ja-yoon, and it’s still hard to believe it’s her first-ever feature role on the big screen. She is absolutely phenomenal as the main character, and she definitely shines from beginning to end. As the movie goes on, she turns from a naive person to a force to be reckoned with when she rediscovers her destructive powers. Also, whenever she unleashes her telekinesis onscreen, it’s a lot of fun to watch. When characters are fighting on screen, you will have a total blast! As she uses her abilities to kill her enemies, it’s extremely entertaining for sure, but it’s also quite brutal. Known for having deadly violence in his filmography, Park Hoon-jung showcases that aspect of his filmmaking style in The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion. It’s like a gritty and bloody version of the X-Men, and it feels like a cool comic book origin story for the main protagonist.
While the film’s action scenes are incredible, the pacing does have some issues. The lead-up to the epic finale is admittedly slow, as it really takes its time to introduce Ja-yoon’s life to the audience. It does take a while to get going, but then it picks right back up. It is important for the plot, but it can still drag the pacing at times. The intro does a great job setting up the vibe of the film, but then it starts to slow down in the second act. However, the third act is definitely the best part of the entire movie that the audience will be waiting to see. It really pays off at the end, even if the beginning is sadly choppy at times. While the title heavily implies that this is just part 1 of a series, don’t worry, this still feels like a standalone movie on its own. This instalment is an origin story for Ja-yoon, so we know that she’s going to be more powerful and wise in the sequel.
Admittedly, The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion isn’t the best title for the movie, but it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s a really entertaining action thriller with great scenes featuring superpowered mayhem. Kim Da-mi completely kills it as the lead actress, and she definitely deserves the Fantasia Cheval Noir award for the Best Actress category. If you’re a fan of both Korean cinema and stylish comic book films, The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion might be the movie for you.
The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion screened as part of this year’s Fantasia Festival.