Movie Review: ‘Exhuma’ is what great Asian Horror Films are made of-

By: Ica Hontiveros-Cheng 

I came into ‘Exhuma’ without any prior knowledge as to the film, admittedly Korean films or Korean pop culture isn’t my expertise. (Don’t come for me!) But that’s okay, because one of the great things about movies is that you can always enjoy them no matter what your preferred genre or expertise is. If a film is really that good it can easily transcend preferences. (Just look at Parasite!) So, I might not fully grasp the gravity of the actors cast in the film (again, please don’t come after me, huhu) but I am happy to note that each one was well cast and brought their A game.

‘Exhuma’ was one of the films wherein I immediately wanted to talk about it after seeing it. I wanted to talk about the many supernatural, horror, historical and religious elements right after. That was how “meaty” it was.  So, it would be a good idea to see this with a group of friends, just so you can have some buddies to discuss it with after.

As a fan of dark supernatural anime, this one was right up my alley, and reminded me of anime like Jujutsu Kaisen (Shamans are basically like Sorcerers) and even Zenki. There was even an apprentice shaman in a school uniform! So yes, it had those anime-like elements, which is probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed the film so much. Although, I guess one difference is that, the Japanese are the bad guys/ghosts/spirits/entities here. And if you have any knowledge of Korean or Japanese history, you might have an idea why that is the case. 

 I love how they portrayed the Shamans as cool and good-looking, who wear chucks and go to the gym (and attend spin class!). Instead of the typical old man/lady chanting scriptures. That was a very smart move as to appeal to younger audiences. And “token” Lee Do-hyun was well utilized in this film. He just didn’t “look good” and wasn’t just eye candy, he streteched some serious acting muscles here. And Kim Go-eun is a force to be reckoned with. All the girls will want to be her and the guys will want to be with her. Or you know, girls may want to be with her too. Works both ways. This, despite the occupational hazzards that come with being a shaman. Such as battling vengeful ghosts and an unspeakable evil that has been buried in the most vile soil in all of Korea.

Kim Go-eun and Lee Do-hyun’s commitment to their roles extends to learning the different rituals and chants as shamans. They’re not as easy as it seems. The ritual scene was so beautifully done, that I had my mouth open the entire time. 

And how cool is Choi Min-sik as a modern day Geomancer? I thought I’d only encounter that term in DOTA games. But there he was, a modern day Geomancer and Feng Shui expert. And as the elder uncle in the group, you can’t help but want to protect him and keep him safe.

My only qualm was that the film was too long, and I guess I didn’t expect it to be that long. It felt like two movies in one, that may be a good thing or a bad thing, depends on how you look at it. I just felt that the second peak action wasn’t as intense as the first one. I would love to see more adventures from the characters. I feel that this would make a good limited series. Like, following the shamans, geomancers and feng shui experts in different cases. And with that high school shaman apprentice, I think they already have good material to work with.

There were elements in Buddhism, a crash course in Feng Shui and history. Of course good old horror. It had a bit of a long runtime, that it felt like you saw two movies in one. But yeah, if Asian Supernatural/Horror is your jam, or if you’re a fan of Lee Do-hyun, Kim Go-eun or Choi Min-sik then you shouldn’t miss ‘Exhuma’ in cinemas.