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Exhuma review: ‘Grave’ danger!

After Svaha [2019], writer-director Jang Jae-hyun delivers another enthralling supernatural drama. While it may lack some of the spine-tingling moments, Jae-hyun’s competent cast more than holds forte with their compelling performances.

Language: Korean

Cast: Choi Min-Sik, Kim Go-eun, Lee Do-hyun, Yoo Hae-jin

India release:  3 May

Distributed by : Impact Films

Rating: ⭐⭐ (3 / 5)

Exhuma [2024]

By Mayur Lookhar

Exhuma, the year’s biggest Korean blockbuster so far, arrives in India this Friday [May 3]. The digital boom over the years has exposed Indian audiences to global content, with Korean cinema finding favor among desis.

Writer-director Jang Jae-Hyun, known for his penchant for K-horror with blockbusters like The Priests [2015] and Svaha [2019], now presents Exhuma. Interestingly, Jae-Hyun also has a slight India connection. His debut (short) film was titled Maley from India [2009]

While Exhuma [2024] has no direct connection to India, Korean cinema aficionados in the country will eagerly anticipate diving into its world.

The poster earned praise for its symbolic reference to the Korean peninsula map. Exhuma is a supernatural horror primarily set in Korea, yet its chilling narrative transcends borders, reaching even as far as America.

A wealthy family is distraught over the mysterious illness plaguing their newborn, who lies in an American hospital. When conventional medicine fails to provide answers, they turn to Hwa-rim (Kim Go-eun), a renowned Korean Shaman. She reveals that the family is cursed, and the child is tormented by a ‘grave’s call’ from the vengeful spirit of an ancestor.

Source: Impact Films

Park Ji-yong (Kim Jae-Cheol) the family patriarch, hires Kim Sang-Deok (Choi Min-sik), an expert in the sale of burial lands, to exhume his grandfather’s grave and relocate it to a distant place. The current site, situated atop a remote hill, unnerves Sang-Deok. Despite his reservations, he agrees to the task after Hwa-rim and her team conduct a ritual to ward off any supernatural threats. However, they remain unaware of the lurking danger beneath the surface.

The Exhuma sets off a series of chilling events, with the source of the haunting rooted in both history (the Japanese invasion of Korea [1900-1945]) and mythology (an unknown malevolent entity from ancient times).

Jae-hyun masterfully builds spine-chilling tension, with Hyo-rim’s rituals particularly captivating the audience. However, once the malevolent entity reveals itself, the same level of dread isn’t sustained. While the being is undeniably frightening, the visuals lack the punch to induce genuine unease. One consistent element, however, is Jae-hyun’s Japanese bashing, which remains prevalent throughout. Hwa-rim, Sang-Deok, and their companions inadvertently awaken a beast, yet they surprise you with their steely resolve to fight back each time. It’s here that the horror feels toned down.

Kim Go-eun. Source: Impact Films.

Jae-Hyun’s cast, however, delivers consistently strong performances. Kim Go-eun stands out among them, portraying Hwa-rim with impressive courage as a young Shaman facing evil head-on. “Yin and Yang. Science and superstition. I’m someone in between,” she declares, introducing herself with these words. They encapsulate the character of a woman confident in her occult knowledge, embodying both tradition and modernity in her appearance.

Choi Min-Sik’s portrayal of Sang-Deok is nuanced; he’s ambitious yet considerate about the burial lands he sells, even tasting soil samples to ensure there’s no bad omen. Prior to this cursed hilltop, Sang-Deok had never encountered such a foreboding situation. Initially hesitant, he agrees to help Park Ji-yong out of compassion for the latter’s ailing child. Despite his own daughter’s impending wedding, Sang-Deok bravely steps in to save Park and his family. Like Kim Go-eun, Min-Sik delivers a compelling performance.

Yoo Hae-jin and Lee Do-hyun also put up a decent performance as Sang-Deok and Hwa-rim’s colleagues Yeong-geun and Bong-gil, respectively.

Having watched Svaha [2019], Exhuma offers an equally gripping plot, but it doesn’t quite deliver the same experience. Visually, the images aren’t as sharp as in Svaha. Additionally, the background music is minimal, with a deathly tone emanating from traditional Korean instruments that accompany the early rituals.

From start to end, it’s the defiant attitude of Hwa-rim that stays long with you.  Got ‘grave’ trouble, Dial Hwa-rim.

Watch the video review below.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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