Reviews | Written by JAMES "MAGIC" PERKINS 07/05/2019

THE WITCH: PART 1. THE SUBVERSION

In recent times, Asia cinema has taken the western world by storm with the likes of Train to Busan and One Cut of the Dead (hailing from Korea and Japan respectively) subverting all expectations with general audiences – and it looks like that trend will continue with the highly underrated and utterly captivating The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion from Park Hoon-jung.

After writing the screenplay for the horror thriller I Saw the Devil, Park turned his attention to directing and with this film, being billed as Part 1 of a series of films, has most certainly created something truly special.

After a young girl escapes from a research facility fearing for her life, a loving couple finds her and take her in and raise her as their own. 10 years later, Ja-yoon (played by the sensational newcomer Kim Da-mi) has suppressed the memories of her past and has lived a normal life until one day, figures from her troubled childhood, including a devilishly handsome young man (Choi Woo-shik, Train to Busan, Okja) begin to interfere and her world is turned on its head as her true power is revealed.

This first instalment of The Witch trilogy (not to be confused with Robert Eggers folk-horror The VVitch from 2015) is not your traditional mystery thriller. As is the case with Asian cinema, this film showcases their insane powerhouse of storytelling abilities as the first half is a slow-burner but also manages to feel wonderfully paced before the second half takes full hold and the audience is thrust into a brutal bloodbath and a world of the supernatural to devastatingly entertaining effect. Along with its masterful storytelling, the film also looks gorgeous – scenes at night are bathed in a beautiful blue glow which evoke feelings of the unknown and potential danger whereas moments of hope and triumph including during the day are light, fresh and crisp. These colours are used to great effect during key moments of the narrative when new information comes to light (which we as an audience learn as Ja-yoon uncovers her past) or when our lead characters are presented with a terrifying danger.

Kim Da-mi’s lead performance is nothing short of spectacular. Her depiction of innocence and tranquillity before transforming into a powerful and sinister presence shows that this young actress has the ability that truly transcends her years. Backed up by the witty and charming Choi Woo-shik who, like Kim, has bags of potential going forward in his career; the film’s outlandish concept is kept grounded and focused by our lead actors.

The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion is a true surprise hit and is unlike anything you’ve seen before – beautiful, heartfelt and gorgeous before turning on a coin and becoming the action sensation of the year that could rival any superhero movie with choreography that is out of this world – think John Wick meets The Raid meets X-Men. A blood-soaked rollercoaster ride from start to finish that leaves the audience gagging for Part 2 as soon as possible and has given birth to a star performer in Kim Da-mi.

THE WITCH: PART 1. THE SUBVERSION / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: PARK HOON-JUNG / SCREENPLAY: PARK HOON-JUNG / STARRING: KIM DA-MI, CHOI WOO-SHIK, JO MIN-SU, PARK HEE-SOON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (AVAILABLE ON ALL UK DIGITAL PLATFORMS)