The 8th Night – Review

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The 8th Night has the potential to be a gripping atmospheric horror. After the opening reminiscent of The Exorcist (1973), debutant director Kim Tae-hyung immediately showed off his talent for building an atmosphere through audiovisuals, without the need for a jump scare. He co-wrote the script, and as the minutes go by, Tae-hyung’s writing definitely isn’t as strong as his directing abilities. By midway through, The 8th Night had run out of fuel due to the lack of biting storytelling. Top Movie Site

The opening above shows the discovery of artifacts in a desert, by Professor Kim Joon-cheol (Choi Jin-ho). It is said that the box-shaped artifact is the place where Buddha locked one eye (red eye) belonging to an evil entity that threatened human life 2500 years ago. The box contains one more eye (a black eye), under the care of the monk Ha-jeong (Lee Eol). After the monk died, the box was entrusted to his student, Cheong-seok (Nam Da-reum).

Cheong-sok’s task is to deliver the box to Park Jin-soo (Lee Sung-min), a former monk who is believed to be able to exterminate the evil entity, which has begun its action, after Professor Joon-cheol opens his box. The film’s title refers to how the entity, for seven days, possessed the bodies of seven humans, to finally rise on the eighth night.

The early half, just before Cheong-seok and Jin-soo go any further on their mission, is the best part of The 8th Night. Collaborating with Choo Kyeong-yeob (The Battle of Jangsari) as cameraman, Tae-hyung creates an aesthetic visual presentation that evokes a haunted air. Sound comes into play. Best Movie

In one scene, Jin-soo sits alone in a dimly lit room, while a disembodied scream for help is heard. At first the screams seemed to come from Jin-soo’s hallucinations. Then blackout, leaving one voice asking to be helped step into the afterlife. Yes, it’s not Jin-soo’s hallucination, but a spirit that follows him wherever he goes, hoping the ex-monk will be willing to “drive” them. Shocking, but subtle. Creepy.

Unfortunately, the horror didn’t last long. Apart from the two protagonists, we occasionally turn to the police investigation, led by detective Kim Ho-tae (Park Hae-joon aka the jerk from The World of the Married). Should the police investigation be the subplot that dominates the duration? Not. The police exist, only as a means of exposition. It is limited to describing the details of the plot, which is still confusing, due to the untidy arrangement of the story in the script.

There’s no reason to care about Ho-tae (nor his partner), let alone to give the detective a traumatic experience in the past, which ends up just passing through. As a result, time to explore significant things, such as mythology and the relationship between Cheong-seok and Jin-soo (which should provoke sympathy) is wasted.

The two monks became half-baked characters. Whereas Lee Sung-min appeared convincing as a “tired” old man, who had given up pursuing material as well as spiritual pursuits. Likewise Cheong-seok, who was supposed to be Jin-soo’s wake-up call, helps him get back on track after years of being lost. Nam Da-reum tries her best to present a likeable figure, but the shallow script makes her character seem to be transformed in an extreme way, from a naive young monk to an ignorant boy with minimal manners.

The 8th Night is a tale of a race against time, but the overlapping subplots undermine that concept. There is no urgency. There is no tension when you find time is running out. Not to mention, as the duration goes on, the horror lessens. Practically only a brief appearance of the figure of a student with a creepy smile alone can haunt. Movie Review

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