The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion uses incredible action sequences, gorgeous visuals, and enough twists to keep you entertained, despite the jam-packed plot.
There’s nothing like a good revenge thriller. Korean writer-director Hoon-jung Park is counting on that fact with his 2018 film The Witch: Part 1 The Subversion, likely a more confusing title due to the translation into English. Following a teenage girl’s interaction with a group of people from her past, Park’s film remains taut and tense during its 125-minute runtime.
The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion opens up with a young girl running for her life, only for it to immediately fast-forward 10 years into the future. Kim Da-mi plays Ja-yoon, a girl who grew up with simple parents on a simple farm. Due to money problems, she decides to try out and advances in a national singing/talent competition. None of that matters, though, as the entire first hour sets up the twists and turn of the back half of the film, in which the audience learns everything about Ja-yoon’s past, her present, and her plan for the future.
Park’s film hedges on the vengeance of this girl, and her anger over her upbringing, one as a lab subject of sorts. The Witch: Part 1 The Subversion brings together elements of young adult novels and stories of the last 20 years, along with the fast-paced action of large scale set pieces, like the ones seen in the James Bond franchise. That’s not hyperbole, either. The action is riveting, and if the plot doesn’t reel you in, the action gives any viewer a good reason to keep watching, though you’ll have to stomach large quantities of blood and bullets.
The film came out two years ago in South Korea but just hit Netflix in the U.S. this weekend, likely giving it a much wider platform outside of its original theatrical release. Though the themes are a bit worn, the idea of children losing their innocence and being raised with and through violence has an eerie, slightly reaching similarity to those growing up in places and situations where violence is on every corner. It’s fiction, yes, but in this specific time in the world, it’s hard not to relate nearly everything you see with some aspect of the world around you and those you love, or even those you barely know.
Park’s thriller flips on a dime; it’s the movie’s best quality and biggest downfall. You aren’t necessarily ready for the big reveals or the dozens of deaths that follow. And in a matter of minutes, you go from knowing nothing to knowing everything. The villain gives a speech, the hero does her thing, and then all of a sudden, the film ends in a quiet stillness after a major flurry of plot and 30 minutes of high-intensity fighting.
The Witch: Part 1 The Subversion is a film leaning on its excitement and its thrills. It packs a punch, literally. And sometimes, that’s enough to keep you engaged and watching, even if the film itself could have been lighter-handed. In this case, though, the action makes The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion a worthy watch, especially if you’re looking for something to watch that’s off the beaten path.
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Based in Brooklyn, NY, Michael is a regular critic for Ready Steady Cut and also writes for Cinema Sentries, The Film Experience and Film Inquiry.