A fictional Buddhist legend separating the two eyes of The Evil One so that they can’t reunite and “turn the world into Hell” is the centerpiece of “The 8th Day,” a Korean horror thriller in which the hope of the world rests in the hands of (naturally) Korean monks and a Virgin Shaman.
The red eye got buried in the West, in the desert on the Indian/Pakistani border, so the story goes. The black eye was tucked away for safe keeping, inside a capped stone urn inside a Sarira basket in the East. Guess which country that would be?
Kimchi and Hite lager for everyone!
The inciting incident in Tae-Hyung Kim’s film involves an archaeologist who tracks down the Western basket, and takes being called a “fraud” so poorly that he must have his revenge on the world. Just like a guy, ending civilization just to “prove I’m RIGHT.”
The legend, repeated to a couple of characters so that the audience will eventually remember it, says that these eyes will use “seven stepping stones over seven nights” to make their way back to each other.
“They reunite on ‘The 8th Day!'”
Elderly Master Haejong gets wind of the new danger, summons an aspiring monk who hasn’t finished his vow of silence yet. Cheongeok (Dong-yeong Kim), of all people, is who he entrusts the Eastern Eye with, and who he sends to “find Seonhwa!”
That would be a grumpy, haunted, solitary man (Sung-min Lee) who finds his visitor annoying, even more so after the high-maintenance young monk (He can’t touch meat, so buying him a burger means you have to remove the patty yourself.) accidentally breaks his vow of silence.
He’s stuck with a chatterbox and he undertakes the mission to take away a “stepping stone,” the only one the monks know by legend. “Stepping stones” are the people whose body the demon takes over. All are random, save for the Virgin Shaman, Ae-ran (Kim Yoo-Jeong). Find her and you break the “bridge” to creating Hell on Earth.
There’s also a dogged police detective (Rich Ting) unwittingly tracking a demon thanks to the bodies the beast leaves behind. The cop is also saddled with a clumsy sidekick (Nam-Da-reum).
The toothy, crazy-eyed grin their quarry wears should give them away. If not, when the “eye” pokes itself out of their cheek, the game’s up.
The movie’s a plodding, semi-methodical search for the black eye demon, which Cheongeok clumsily lost and let loose, with Seonhwa starting to look more and more like a suspect, the more often he turns up in places where desiccated corpses are found.
The finale, involving more incantations and an elaborate “trap,” is pretty good. And the effects can be chilling in that neck-cracking, beady-eyed grin sort of way. Lee makes a properly grizzled anti-hero for this question.
But the exposition-heavy plot and long leaving many of the monstrous attacks off-camera rob “The 8th Night” of suspense or anything else of interest. For something that we can label “K-horror,” this is tedious going.
And if you’re not going to do anything more with a character you’ve named “The Virgin Shaman” than this, why bother?
MPA Rating: TV-MA, violence
Cast: Sung-min Lee, Kim Yoo-Jeong, Rich Ting, Dong-yeong Kim, Nam Da-Reum
Credits: Scripted and directed by Tae-Hyung Kim. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:56