Late in "The Wicked" there's a flashback where we see office manager Seon (played by Na Soo-yoon) decide to take a chance on applicant Se-yeong (played by Park Joo-hee). It's not an especially remarkable or relevant scene, except for the fact that this is, in fact, the only time in the entire movie that Seon comes off as particularly sympathetic. She's not a bad person, but I'm genuinely not sure that Seon ever so much as smiles before that flashback happens. It's always either bullying, or overreaction, or being terrorized by a stalker with her.
Although I can sort of understand why director Yoo Young-sun decided to put that particular bit of exposition in so late. In chronological sequence, the order of events is as follows. Seon hires Se-yeong. Rumors about Se-yeong being deranged arise. Seon makes fun of Se-yeong. Se-yeong stalks Seon, eventually proving herself to be much more terrifying and dangerous than the initial rumors let on.
I don't generally like putting big spoilers like that in the review, but it's important you know going in to this movie that there really isn't any kind of satisfying plot twist at play in the narrative here, emphasis on satisfying. The best message I can get out of this movie is that a lot of people who have rumors spread about them deserve it. But don't you go around spreading those rumors personally, or they might find a terrible way to take personal revenge. Well, also they might just try to take revenge anyway since the're not quite right in the head. The point is, don't bother treating anyone with kindness, ever.
How about the genre merits then? "The Wicked" purports to be a horror thriller and it...I guess half succeeds? I never really felt very scared while watching the movie, but there's definitely parts here that are viscerally unsettling. Body mutiliation makes a major appearance. Nothing explicit or gory- just the subtle stuff where it's hard to watch because everything looks really painful, even if we know that this is just a movie and nobody actually got hurt.
But even acknowledging the skill involved in the way the film makes us physically identify with the victims, that doesn't solve the problem of the complete lack of emotional involvement "The Wicked" manages with any of its characters. It took me half the movie to realize that Seon was supposed to be a cipher for the viewer, which is awkward because up until then she just seemed like the boss you don't really like all that much.
As for Se-yeong, I'm really not sure what I was supposed to get out of the revelations concerning her backstory. She's evil, but she sort of has a reason, but also she still does these terrible things, so in the end it's all...not really all right? Given how on-point and direct "The Wicked" is with the subtle low budget body horror I'm puzzled as to how its actual storyline managed to turn out so wishy-washy. In any case, this movie's probably not worth watching unless you're really desperate for a classically styled investigative thriller.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Wicked""
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