Movie Review: The Witch: Part 1 the Subversion (2018)

Before Kim Da-mi and Choi Woo-shik break each other’s hearts in Our Beloved Summer, these two had been in a project where they also tried to break the other. Except this time, they’re trying to kill each other quite literally.

The Witch: Part 1 the Subversion is an action thriller released in 2018 written and directed by Park Hoon-jung (who also helmed the production of VIP and Night in Paradise). The title obviously made it obvious that The Witch’s story is divided into parts and this film tackles the origin of our heroine or “the witch” Ja-yoon (Kim Da-mi). But don’t get fooled there’s no actual witchcraft involved in the movie. Just some unhinged science experiments and unethical genetic engineering.

The movie’s exposition is quite intriguing. In fact, one would immediately feel immersed and curious as to what was really going on in the facility and the bloody kids. The first two characters introduced – Dr. Baek (Jo Min-soo) and Mr. Choi (Park Hee-soon) – only had a few minutes of screen time at the opening scene but they were able to exude the dark mystery around them and placed a looming threat while we watch Ja-yoon live as a normal girl.

Half of the film was spent showing Ja-yoon as the farm girl who only wants to help her struggling family. From the outside, nothing’s wrong with her. She’s smart, goes along well with people, and is hardworking. She doesn’t differ that far from her best friend, Do Myung-hee (Go Min-si). Others may find these scenes quite slow-paced or worst, draggy for an action-thriller, but I actually really like that they delve into this before the big reveal and the bloody actions sequences. They crafted Ja-yoon’s family story to be compelling. This humane part of her is a good backgrounder and a solid basis on why the audience should root for her. Her origin story really builds up Ja-yoon’s motivation.  And I think it’s also the same reason why I didn’t see the movie’s plot twist coming.

Before the big reveal and reversals, Ja-yoon’s life was disrupted by the arrival of people clad in black. These no-name characters tempt Ja-yoon to show her true colors and join them back in the facility. Gwigongja (Choi Woo-shik) – or could be translated as young prince – was the first one to meet Ja-yoon. He was the boy at the start of the film and he kept on provoking our heroine to fight him. I really enjoyed watching this no-name character tempt Ja-yoon. He’s annoying in a very good way. And even though he clearly knew he’s no match to Ja-yoon, he still insist on challenging her up until the end. I was actually hoping they reveal more of his backstory too but this film is clearly centered on Ja-yoon. And aptly so because she never disappoints. She is the saving grace of this movie, which could have been mediocre if not for her well-written character arc.

As I’ve said earlier, we were led to believe that Ja-yoon was a normal girl and has no idea about her dark and traumatic past. In fact, I thought the only clue she had was her headaches. BUT just when I was starting to lose interest, they dropped a reversal I never saw coming: everything that happened was Ja-yoon’s plan all along.

She was well-aware of how different she is from her peers. She created her own cloak of normalness. She didn’t accidentally reveal her brain’s immense power. She intentionally did that so she could be found. Gwigongja realized it a few seconds too late and they couldn’t stop a high-grade genetically modified Ja-yoon to bring the facility down aka the subversion. The reveal kick-started the long-awaited and teased action-packed sequences that fans of this genre would enjoy. The fights were brutal and bloody. It was perfect for the movie’s climax. And in the end, the audience would feel like they still want to know more about Ja-yoon and the institution that created her. The last part of the movie also implied that the facility she burned down is just the façade and we just hit the tip of the iceberg.

The Witch: Part 1 the Subversion is a good prelude story to a promising series of epic films. It strength was clearly on its central character and exceptionally good actors. This “part 1” will definitely leave you craving for a sequel.

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