Hong Kong Digital
is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate
editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author
of The Hong Kong Filmography.
The Fox With Nine Tails
Thanks to a numerical error in Hell, a cowardly sycophant who was sentenced to have his tongue cut out (after getting caught slacking off at work...for five minutes!) is, instead, transported topside with orders to find and kill the sole remaining fox girl. Now 999 years old, the fox can become human if she drains the spirit of a human male before her 1000th birthday. However, thanks to more otherworldly bumbling, our toadie ends up hundreds of miles from his destination and is mistaken for a North Korean spy. That evening, Seoul taxi driver Hyuk (Jeong Wu-seong) is mugged and seriously injured but escapes his attackers, thanks to the timely arrival of beautiful Harah (Ko So-young). Hyuk awakens the next day in a forest with his knife wound mysteriously healed and no idea how he got there. His ongoing string of bad luck finally seems to abate when Harah comes to his aid once again and demonstrates genuine affection for him. Harah (as we learn early in the film) is the Fox Girl but her love for Hyuk has left her conflicted about whether to take his life. The matter becomes more pressing as time begins to run down and her pursuer (abetted by a scatterbrained fortune teller / amateur Taoist) has finally begun to master his powers...
So-young. Image courtesy Bitwin.
This Park Heon-su film is a lumpy amalgam of puerile comedy, familiar fish-out-of-water jokes, horror, romance, overly ripe melodrama, and supernatural action (in addition to shedding her human guise, Harah can fly like the fox demons in the HK films A CHINESE LEGEND and FOX LEGEND). There is some fine craftsmanship on display (the forest sequences and Harah's decrepit basement are very atmospherically photographed) and some of the special effects are nicely done (this was the first Korean production to feature CGI and, not surprisingly it ends up being used excessively). Much of the film seems half-baked when all is said and done but the romantic element becomes quite palpable in the final reel and, as a result, the climax ends up being more poignant than one would have initially suspected. Ko and Jeung made their film debuts here and have since gone on to become two of the top stars in Korean cinema.