horror can be profoundly unsettling, but it largely validates a Christian
(particularly Catholic) framework of good and evil. After all, William Peter
Blatty is admirably serious about his Catholic faith. While it definitely
follows in the thematic tradition of The
Exorcist, Jang Jae-hyun gives the possession horror story a distinctly
Korean identity in 12th
Assistant Deacon, which screens during the 2015 Stanley Film Festival.
Kim is determined to exorcise the demon possessing comatose teenager
Young-shin. If he can liberate her spirit, her body might start responding as
well. Tragically, the demon is particularly cruel and belligerent. Despite his repeated
efforts, many of his appointed assistants have been scared off by its mocking
torments. Yes, it is safe to say Deacon Choi has more than ten predecessors. To
his credit, he has deep faith and can pray in multiple languages, but he too
has painful memories the evil one will exploit.
the surface level, 12th
Assistant resembles any number of possession films, but its atmosphere and
execution are considerably superior. It gets decidedly tense, but what really
sets the film apart is its unequivocal embrace of faith and spiritual
resiliency. Father Kim explicitly argues the darkness they witness necessarily implies
the existence of the light. He is quite convincing, in the context of the film.
Ji-il is absolutely terrific as the battle-hardened Father Kim. He handles the
surprisingly impressive special effects scenes quite well and completely nails
his big speech. Likewise, Lee Hak-joo hits all the right notes as the earnest
but unprepared deacon.
This is one of the rare films Catholics, Evangelicals,
and cult film connoisseurs can enjoy in equal measure. Its depiction of
demon-exorcising Catholic clergy is particularly interesting, considering it
was produced in South Korea, where Christianity is the largest organized
religion. Yet nearly half the country is agnostic and many regard Christianity
with suspicion or worse. That thorny dynamic is directly reflected in Father
Kim’s complex interactions with Young-shin’s very different parents. It is a
serious film, but also seriously scary. Highly recommended for horror fans, 12th Assistant Deacon screens this Friday (5/1) as part of Short Program II, at this year’s Stanley Film Festival.
Labels: Horror Movies, Korean Cinema, Short Films, Stanley Film Festival '15