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DVD Review

DVD cover

Woochi: The Demon Slayer


Starring: Gang Dong-won, Kim Yoon-Suk, Yoo Hae-jin and Lin Soo-jung
Cine Asia
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: 15
Available 25 April 2011

For millennia man and beast have lived together peacefully, that is except for the goblins, which were kept in their own dungeon. The archgod took his pipe and the playing confined them for 3000 days. On the 300th day the doors were to be opened, but a trio of bumbling Taoist monks miscalculated and let them out early. Evil once again overcame the Goblins, and consumed the archgod, breaking his pipe in two. Whosoever owns the pipe will have access to great power. The goblins continue to roam and, when found, people turn to Woochi to trap the errant spirits...

Woochi the Demon Slayer (2009 - 1 hr, 54min, 59 sec) is a martial arts fantasy film, written and directed by Dong-hun Choi, who had previously directed Tazza: The High Rollers and The Big Swindle.

The film opens five hundred years ago, in the Joseon era, with Woochi (Dong-won Kang) being both powerful and wilful, rather than following the path of enlightenment he spends his time playing tricks on the king and being scolded by his master. When another goblin is discovered Woochi is approached by the three Taoist demigods for its disposal. Hwa-dam (Yun-seok Kim), another powerful wizard, is also on its trail but for his own reasons. Unknown to Woochi, Hwa-dam kills his master (Yun-shik Baek) and blames Woochi who is banished into a painting, with part of the pipe for five hundred years.

On Woochi’s return, at the behest of the demigods, he finds the world much changed. Returning with his companion, Chorangyi (Yu Hae Jin), a dog transformed into a man, he is once again on the trail of demons, but Hwa-dam has also waited for Woochi’s return to steal back the other half of the pipe and claim the power for himself. The film is split into two parts with the first forty-five minutes set in the Joseon Era. This is not just a preface to the main action; the time taken here allows the film to create a coherent internal logic, which serves the narrative well when the action is transposed to modern Korea. This also allows for the setting up of various subplots which don’t pay out until the second half of the movie.

Woochi is an excellent film. For Kang, as Woochi, the film is a transformation from being an irresponsible child to maturing into a man and a warrior. Kang’s portrayal is playful, without ever becoming silly; he is able to take Woochi through a number of meaningful emotions, creating a rounded, believable character. For me, though, the stage was stolen by Yun-seok Kim, whose portrayal of Hwa-dam leaves the audience guessing as to his motives. Is he really only after the pipe to defeat the demons? What’s with the green blood? Initially presented as one of the good guys Hwa transforms into the perfect foil for Woochi, a villain who commands gravitas in equal parts to Woochi’s levity, by the end of the story both men have undergone a transformation.

This is high budget fantasy film and the special effects come thick and fast, with imaginative wire work, which is less violent and more ballet in style, giving Woochi more controlled and light movements. The Demons, the rabbit especially, are pretty impressive CGI creations. The film oozes pace, style and construction, with some impressive cinematography from Choi Young-hwan and a jaunty, up-beat soundtrack. Woochi shows, with its perfectly balanced combination of comedy and mind blasting action, why some of the best modern fantasy films still come from Asia.

The DVD has a sharp 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, with audio options for either Korean 2.0 or 5.1 track with a commentary which deal with both the film and the wider Asian market from Bey Logan and Mike Leeder. The film has the option for English subtitles. Extras on disc one consist of a trailer gallery, with six different trailers and twelve deleted scenes.

Disc two is where the bulk of the extras are, about three hours of them.

The Newest Korean Style Hero Movie (5 min, 49 sec) has contributions from cast and crew, but is little more than a rather extended trailer for the film, with a good helping of behind the scenes shots. Making of (24 min, 17 sec) is a more extended piece along the same lines, but consisting of only behind the scenes film. The interviews section is pretty short, but then there is a lot of information about the film spread throughout the other extras, that it’s not really a problem.

The Production Featurettes are subdivided into The Training Process (3 min, 48 sec), The World Outside the Frame (8 min, 54 sec), Production Design (14 min, 33 sec), Action and Special Effects (16 min, 08 sec), Shooting and Lighting (6 min, 23 sec), and Post Production, Sound and Editing (6 min, 02 sec). Which cover pretty much everything you might want to know about this aspect of the film.

The Magic of Computer Graphics is likewise subdivided into Visual Art (CG) (15 min, 17 sec), CG Scenes in the Pre-Production Stage (26 min, 05 sec), CG Mixed in with Final Stages (10 min, 39 sec), and The CG Process - The Before and After (2 min, 39 sec).

The disc is wrapped up with Woochi - The Premier (4 min/ 25 sec), Woochi - The Press Conference (4 min, 19 sec) and Woochi - The Showcase (4 min, 23 sec), which are all self-explanatory.

A real cracker of a film, Woochi can be enjoyed by all the family, the kids will love the action and the adults the humour.


Charles Packer

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