The Divine Fury (2019)
Director (and writer): Joo-hwan Kim
Cast: Seo-joon Park, Sung-ki Ahn, Do-Hwan Woo, Woo-sik Choi
Demonic possession and exorcism is not a very popular horror subgenre nowadays (in comparison to say, the much more popular zombies and hauntings). The Divine Fury is a story about a young boxer Yong-hoo (Seo-joon Park) who has strayed from God when he loses his father when was a child despite his intense praying but now has been granted a stigmata that allows him to exorcise demons. By coincidence, he meets Father Ahn (Sung-ki Ahn), an exorcist from the Vatican and ends up hesitantly helping him initially but finds his way out of his hatred for God gradually and seeing his purpose in the whole ordeal.
Let’s face it right now: Korean movies are usually on the longer side of things. This one runs at a little over the 2 hour mark. Because of that, it has some pacing issues. Most of them occur in the beginning as it aims to set up the story and has much less action and much more talking. The talking bits sometimes are a bit padded and dragged out. Some of it feels empty and adds not a lot to the characters especially one that its next film announced at the end credits will feature. It also uses this to add more questions to the focal characters especially the cryptic bits about the bad guy. There is a mixed emphasis on faith and religion here but doesn’t get explored as intriguing while the exorcism is more in its action sequences. There are some oddly-timed dialogue content here and there.
However, what does work here is that each of the scenes build towards the story as a whole and the world of exorcising and who is behind these evil happenings. It uses a story-telling choice where the audience sees what will happen: who will be possessed, who is the villain as well as the lurking evil, but still manages to leave the resolution and reveals the answers like the whys gradually throughout. The second act is more action-packed which has some great moments from one point to the next jumping from one exorcism sequence to the next. Each set piece and victim adds another level of tension and depth to this version of exorcism as the viewers learn about this skill alongside the main character, Yung-hu. While the second act excels in its few moments of exploring exorcism and horror, the third act is where The Divine Fury excels through and through. There is not only exorcism but the final showdown with the villainous character, Ji-sin (Do-hwan Woo) which is intensely action-packed along with some great effects and fantasy elements added in.
Overall, The Divine Fury struggles in it set up in the first act. Its a bit lacking in its character development and it suffers from its length but the team-up of Father Ahn and Yung-hu does have a decent development. However, it redeems itself gradually in its second and especially its final act. Its use of exorcism scenes and how the possessed characters act and movements are one of the outstanding elements. The acting from its characters are on point and while the progression struggles in parts, especially in its conversation that attempts to give its characters depth and feels disjointed in those bits, when the movie focuses on its main storyline of exorcism and tracking down the mysterious villain, it truly excels and intrigues. It helps that the director has a really nice grasp of creating an unsettling atmosphere and the building suspense properly. Its not perfect but there’s a lot of positive elements that help overcome some of the early execution issues.
The Divine Fury will be available on Well Go USA on November 19, 2019.