Eye For An Eye
There’s something inherently creepy about Asian horror. From the original Ringu to the often overlooked Gonjiam Haunted Asylum, the tone and atmosphere of these films cannot be praised enough.
Netflix’s latest Korean horror, The 8th Night, has both of these in abundance. It also comes armed with a pretty interesting story, let down slightly by a lack of characterization for some of the supporting players.
While there’s no outright scary or freaky moments (and no jump scares to boot either), this is one moody horror. That atmosphere is built up specifically to play on paranoia and tension which it does to a good degree.
At the center of all this is a millennia-old spirit which reawakens, determined to wreak havoc once more. In its quest to become whole, this spirit assumes the form of a variety of different people. These all happen to be self-proclaimed stepping stones to the end goal – the virgin. This virgin, as our characters are led to believe, is a quiet girl called Ae-Ran.
Given the bloodshed and devastation left in its wake, this spirit attracts the attention of a handful of different characters who end up entangled together during the final conflict in Buk-San.
Before we get there though, the film essentially splits in half, with lead detective Ho-Tae following a trail of dead bodies on his hunt to uncover the truth.
Running parallel to that is a story involving junior monk Cheonseok who takes a vow of silence and heads off to visit fellow holy man Seon-hwa. He doesn’t take kindly to the kid (for reasons explained late on) but begrudgingly teams up with him nonetheless.
The added hook here is an 8 day countdown. The spirit in question has 8 days before it finds and possesses the virgin. In doing so, it could well spell doom for everyone in its wake. Our monks are, of course, hell-bent on stopping this at any cost. As the days tick by and the struggle becomes more desperate, it soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems.
No spoilers here of course but there are a couple of nicely worked twists toward the end, leading to a conclusive but slightly ambiguous ending that’s likely to get people talking about what it means. (We’ll cover that separately in another article!)
Those expecting an outright fright fest though will be disappointed. This movie feels far closer to a thriller than horror, despite some creepy moments dotted throughout the 2 hour run-time. A lot of that creepiness comes from the acting, with those possessed by this spirit doing an excellent job contorting and twisting their facial features into nightmarish grins and wide-eyed stares.
If you’re in the mood for a suspenseful horror, The 8th Night is definitely worth checking out. The story is engaging enough to stick with for the long haul, while the countdown helps to keep things poised on a knife edge. It’s not without its problems but The 8th Night is easy on the eye nonetheless.
Verdict - 7/10