“The 8th Night” Movie Review

제8일의 밤 – The 8th Night
Korea 2021, Kim Tae-Hyoung

Lee Sung-Min – Park Jin-Soo / Seon-Hwa
Nam Da-Reum – Cheong-Seok
Kim Yoo-Jung – Ae-Ran / Virgin Shaman
Park Hae-Joon – Det. Kim Ho-Tae

According to Buddhist legends, there once existed a monster that brought suffering to Buddha was finally able to stop and seal it away by hiding its two eyes (one black, one red) in two caskets in different parts of the world. It is said that if the eyes are reunited, on the 8th night, the monster will be reborn. Hence, the Buddha asked his disciples to keep them away from each other at all cost.

Present day. A Korean archeology professor researching the legend manages to locate the red eye, in the form of a stone, in a faraway desert. Soon after his return to Korea (where the black eye is), he commits suicide. The red eye then starts possessing people one after another, leaving a series of dead bodies in its wake. Monk-in-training Cheong-Seok (Nam Da-Reum), currently under a vow of silence, is tasked by the protector of the black casket to find banished monk Park Jin-Soo (Lee Sung-Min). Armed with an axe and prayer beads, Park’s destiny is to keep the two eyes apart from each other. Against his will, Cheong-Seok decides to join him in his mission. In doing so, Cheong-Seok encounters the Virgin Shaman, who is said to be the eye’s last requirement on its way to revenge. Meanwhile, Detective Kim (Park Hae-Joon) and his partner are investigating the weird deaths and begin to suspect Park Jin-Soo. Not believing in anything supernatural, they soon find themselves in over their heads. It’s up to the two monks to stop the prophecy from coming true. While Park tries to stop the red eye at all costs, Cheong-Seok vows to keep the virgin shaman away from it. But the eye could be hiding inside anybody…

Netflix movies can be really hit or miss, so when I came across this one I wasn’t expecting anything. Sometimes it can be better to go into a movie without expectations, because this one turned out a pleasant surprise.

Did my above synopsis confuse you? It actually doesn’t even scratch the surface of the story. And it took me more than three viewings to kind of understand the gist of it. By all means, pay attention during the beginning sequence, because you won’t understand anything that happens otherwise. Of course there is nothing wrong with a movie that goes a little deeper and requires you to think. I’m just not used to it. Anyway, the mythology they created here is fascinating, as are the portrayals of Buddhist practice. All that makes for a great background while the plot builds up towards the grand finale, shocking plot twist included (which I won’t give away here). One area that might divide opinions is the showdown that slightly veers into fantasy territory, magic talismans and Buddhist spells included. I found it appropriate for the story, but those who like their horror realistic might get turned off somewhat.


Now I want to talk about what I liked most about The 8th Night, namely the characters. I can’t give enough praise to Lee Sung-Min as the grumpy older monk with a heart, and Nam Da-Reum as the innocent and optimistic monk-in-training. I didn’t know Nam Da-Reum previously, but I’m definitely excited to see more of his work. You just can’t help but root for the both of them. Kim Yoo-Jung also shines as the quiet and mysterious Ae-Ran. The minor characters don’t fall short either. I would say the acting is what really sets gives this movie a heart and turns it into something special.

Visually, The 8th Night totally looks its presumably high budget. Camerawork and lighting are state of the art, as is the production design. From the outfits, the props, to the visual effects, everything adds to the Korean-ness and mysterious atmosphere. Even with all the supernatural stuff going on, effects thankfully don’t go too much over the top. At least in my opinion. What deserves special mentions is the variety of locations. Chasing the demonic eye all across the country, or monks get to visit such illustrious places as bus terminals, shantytowns, burger joints, Buddhist temples and ancient forests, just to mention a few. What I’m trying to say is that you’ll get to see quite a bit of the country here. It’s worth watching just for that.

The movie slightly reminded me of Svaha: The Sixth Finger (2019), which also revolved around Buddhist mythology and had a similarly confusing story. Although I would say The 8th Night is far more worthwhile in comparison. To be fair, I gotta mention I’ve talked to people who didn’t enjoy it quite as much as myself. In any case, if you like horror with a bit more story, and that’s deeply rooted in mythology, I strongly encourage you to check it out. As far as I’m concerned, The 8th Night is the best Korean horror of the last two years.

Good:

Deep story; likeable characters; great locations.

Bad:

Can’t think of anything.

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