Woochi: The Demon Slayer Review

To summarise the plot of Woochi: The Demon Slayer in anything approaching a succinct style is incredibly difficult. At just over two hours, and a little flabby at that, Woochi manages to contain enough plot for a number of blockbuster fantasy action adventures rather than just one. Beginning far, far in the past the film sets up the central character of Jeon Woo-chi (Dong-won Kang), an arrogant and mischievous wizard, and a number of auxiliary characters before flying forwards in time to a point where a number of them are still alive whilst a couple have been transported via magical paintings. That’s just scratching the surface though as there are also the villainous animal demons/goblins, an ultimately villainous character (who shall not be revealed here), three wizards in religious ‘disguise’, a dog-in-human skin sidekick, an intertemporal love interest, a film within the film and so, so much more.

That the film doesn’t become an incomprehensible mess is certainly an achievement in itself and given many of the somewhat culturally specific moments throughout it is also pleasing to report that it’s not only surprisingly easy to follow but there are very few instances where someone with even the most casual interest in Korean films or culture will find themselves lost. Rather than finding themselves lost most audiences will most likely be thoroughly entertained as the film is filled with a number of fun and exciting action set pieces. This is not a martial arts picture though and the focus is on magical excess rather than physical prowess so most action scenes depend less on physical performance and more on wire work and CGI augmentation.

The set pieces are for the most part thrilling and exceptionally well executed, a Seoul based car chase being one noteworthy example, but there are quite a few moments where the CGI lets the film down a little. The animal demons/goblins look too otherworldly in many scenes and it was probably a wise choice to have them often return to human form in a few of the fight scenes. What’s been achieved on a budget of $12 million (US) is impressive though and when set alongside far more expensive US blockbusters Woochi still shines. It’s hard not to be put in mind of John Turteltaub’s mostly disastrous The Sorcerer’s Apprentice when watching Woochi (Woochi was actually released approximately six months before it though) and the way in which Woochi does a number of similar things far better; Primarily the handling of the introduction of magic into the ‘real’ world which is both exciting and amusing in Woochi and dull and lifeless in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Woochi’s not without faults though. The editing in certain places borders on the unforgivable, including one scene with a number of unnecessary cuts in one sequence of two people simply walking and talking, and the locations/sets also leave a lot to be desired. Whilst the aforementioned car chase sequence is incredibly convincing in its setting the subsequent action sequence is totally unconvincing, the studio back lot look (there is amusingly an actual back lot used later) not helped by an approach to the lighting that seems to involve turning as many lights as possible on every corner of the set. Performances are a little hit and miss too but spread out across a large cast these aren’t too much of an issue and the central performance of the slightly unlikeable protagonist Jeon Woo-chi by Dong-won Kang helps carry the film through some of its pacing slumps.

Wochi: The Demon Slayer is mostly an entertaining and enjoyable blockbuster at heart though and its fun action and inventive set pieces are certainly enough to warrant a recommendation.

A slightly different version of this review was originally posted at HeyUGuys.