One of the finest South Korean genre efforts in the 1980s, Lee Hyeok-su’s Cry of a Woman is one of the finest films from the country when they weren’t known as a genre heavyweight that they are now. Nearly thirty-five years later, director Yoo Young-sun decides to follow-up his impressive debut The Wicked by tackling a modern remake of the film which has it’s North American premiere at the 2019 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival.
After returning to his home-town, master Myong-ku (Choi Hong-il) finds that his servants Lady Shin (Seo Young-hee, from “Bedeviled”) Kim Kyeong-ran (Son Sung-yoon, from “A Place in the Sun”) and Park Yeong-sok (Lee Ah-yoon, from “Will You Be There”) have set up a new bride for him to take. Initially reluctant to wed Ok-bin (Son Na-eun) based on her humble status, she is admitted into the rest of the house only to soon be at their mercy when he dies in a mysterious accident believed to have supernatural causes. While they remain in charge of caring for her after the discovery of her pregnancy, a series of ghostly incidents and encounters causes them to believe someone or something is haunting the household which no one can rid from the house. Trying desperately to hang on to her child, the revelation of the ghost’s true identity and target forces her to desperate measures to save both her and her baby.
When ‘The Wrath’ gets going, a lot of the positives come from the stellar ghost action. Director Young-sun creates a wholly oppressive atmosphere in the village setting that gives the appearance of something creepy lurking behind every corner. The fog-shrouded streets and night-time settings allow for the creepiness to really get ramped up by playing with the shadow of the spirit running around or hearing the ethereal laughing on the soundtrack. That setup provides the basis for several big shock scenes. These include the opening attack on the worker in the farmhouse or the attack on the lord. The arrival of the exorcism and the attempts to rid the house of the evil spirit offers up several impressive moments including the gratuitous vomiting of the black liquid immediately upon arrival to the visions of the spirit feeding on the life-energy of the inhabitants and the failed exorcism attempt in the woods that ends tragically for most involved.
Moreover, the finale of the film is incredibly fun and really has so much to like. With the political ramifications spelled out in full effect, from how the women are conspiring to keep the family lineage for themselves against Ok-bin to understand how the curse works, this section of the film generates the setup necessary to get the final confrontation prepared. Not only does this section of the film feature even more frenetic supernatural action with the ghost getting to play with the malicious head of the household that killed her by making him think he’s attacking her instead of his helpers or the battle between the spirit and Ok-bin that features several attempts to overcome her wrath and vengeance that gets rather bloody and brutal at times. With these supernatural actions really bringing aboard some fantastic action scenes featuring the reanimated spirit if Wol-a flying around looking to get her full revenge on everyone, this section is not only quite exciting but cathartic.
On top of that fine work, the film’s issues of class and social constructs are quite prominent. That this takes place in the village, the idea of wealth and opulence is quite apparent in their fancy, colorful clothes and ornate designs. These are strictly at odds with Ok-bin more humble and down-to-Earth upbringing which starts to infuriate the others around the palace the longer she’s around. Once they’re forced to take care of her, the resentment that arises and takes place in the house with the rules and regulations that are placed manage to showcase how the various classes and social statuses deal with different issues. They’re more likely to deny everything that occurs, regardless of whether or not it’s followed on their end, while Ok-bin gets strict regulated deals that are punished for not following. At times, that creates a convoluted storyline with the revelation of the spirits’ vengeance coming so late into the running time because of all the different storylines present here with all the political trickery and backstabbing but that’s really the main issue with the film.
Without too many real flaws and some absolutely stellar positives throughout, ‘The Wrath’ manages to feature plenty of stellar elements that make for a truly enjoyable and engaging effort. Give this one a watch if you’re a fan of these supernatural efforts or a fan of Asian style ghost films in general, while those that don’t appreciate that kind of effort should heed caution.