It’s a staple of the vampire/werewolf/witch hunting genre, that moment when some cocky wiseass takes a gander at his or her quarry and asks a colleague that fateful, fatal question.
“What’s so special about THIS one?”
Holmes, you’re about to find out.
“The Witch: Part 2, The Other One” is writer-director Park Hoon-jung’s everything-but-the-Korean-kitchen-sink sequel to 2018’s “The Witch: Suberversion.” The director of “I Saw the Devil,” my favorite Korean horror movie, throws a lot of very cool effects and some beautifully-conceived supernatural throw-downs as he parks his tale squarely in franchise territory.
The fact that he takes an exasperating hour to get to “the good stuff,” that he fills the screen with characters reciting epic-length chunks of back story and exposition, often in the form of insanely-long questions, and that he lets things turn cute and even cutesy in the middle of all this slaughter and blood, works against the film.
He’s stuffed his story with competing witch hunting factions from The Ark (research institute), Chinese and Korean witch hit squads, “civilian” mobsters out to settle scores, caravans of black sedans and SUVs rolling up on our “other one” witch (Shin Si-ah, aka Cynthia) expecting to catch or dispatch her.
“What’s so special about THIS one?” will be answered in blood.
The whole enterprise plays as cluttered as those “Underworld” movies, where it’s hard to keep track of which villains are in play, and working for whom.
“The good stuff” is worth a bit of waiting and wading through, but man, “The Other One” can be a chore.
Our teenaged patient, a high school girl kidnapped in an elaborate school field trip heist, regains consciousness, her hospital gown covered in blood, her hospital plastered in gore. She silently wanders out and away, with barely the barest hints of flashbacks telling us who she is and what’s she’s done.
A van full of goons nabs her. They’ve already been roughing up this woman (Park Eun-bin) in the back seat, who protests that the new hostage “doesn’t KNOW anything, let her go.” All it takes is one poke or jab too many for the blood-spattered teen to snap hands and arms and send thugs flying through closed doors, which are blown off as the van hurtles into a crash.
The woman Kyung hee thinks about abandoning her savior, this “mental” patient. But she takes pity and drags her off to get her wounds tended and offer her shelter with her teenaged brother (Sung Yoo-bin).
A couple of supernatural displays later, the brother wonders “Is she an alien?” before noticing “You’re kind of cute.” Oddly, the teen girl has forgotten the pleasures of food and other human fixations while in the hospital. But there’s barely time to experience the wonderland that is a Korean supermarket before the ongoing threats make themselves obvious.
The gangster (Jin Goo) shows up with a mob, wondering who beat the hell out of his other mob. Korean and Chinese teams converge on a remote farm. It’s all about to go down.
The first two acts hint at what’s to come, but Park choreographs a symphony of violence for the third.
All the talk of the original witch from the first film, the mysterious Dr. X (Dr. Baek, but she’s also in a wheelchair) who runs “the Ark,” of the Transhumanist faction vs. Union vs everybody’s favorite villain, the Chinese is just here to provide a framework for a franchise, and more fodder for The Other One to fling, hurl, stab or explode.
The factions fight it out amongst themselves as well, blade-on-blade brawls on rooftops.
Park is a directing original who flirts with bits of “Blade” and “Twilight” (the jump-cut effects of characters thrown through walls — of distant buildings) as well as “Underworld” at this distinctly Asian view of a witchcraft undergrojund.
The effects are good even if the characters are barely sketched in, despite the pages and pages of dialogue.
Once it finally gets going, “The Witch: Part 2, the Other One” is impressive. But there’s nothing here that transcends the genre, and what is here is a simple, slow-moving witch-hunt story whose clutter keeps it from ever truly getting up to speed.
Rating: unrated, graphic violence, profanity
Cast: Shin Si-ah (aka Cynthia), Park Eun-bin, Sung Yoo-bin, Jin Goo, Kim Da-mi, Jo Min-su , Seo Eun-soo and Lee Jong-suk
Credits: Scripted and directed by Park Hoon-jung. A Well Go USA release.
Running time: 2:17