The Witch: Part 2 review – Korean horror combines hi-tech and old-style ass-kicking

Gory and absorbing sci-fi sequel is part Stranger Things, part Orphan Black and all action, with a ridiculously good-looking and super-cool cast

This expansive but absorbing sequel to the 2018 sci-fi horror feature The Witch: Part 1 presents, as its extra subtitle The Other One, which might suggest a narrative centred on another young “witch”. The first film’s central figure Ja-yoon (Kim Da-mi, briefly returning here) began to exercise her telekinetic powers only two-thirds of the way into Part 1’s narrative. However, Part 2’s heroine Ark 1 (Shin Sia-ah) is, from the off, able to throw whole cars around and beat people up psychically, having been raised in a secret facility where her superpowers were genetically implanted from birth. But Ark 1 was never socialised like Ja-yoon, the latter having been adopted by kindly if elderly normie farmers at a young age, so a lot of the time is spent watching Ark 1 adapt to regular life after she is taken in by young farmer Kyung-hee (Park Eun-bin) and Kyung-hee’s brother Dae-gil (Sung Yoo-bin). (In relatable fashion, she loves the food samples in supermarkets.) The farmers are being menaced by an uncle (Jin Goo) who wants to forcibly seize their farm, but like almost all the men in this film, the gangsters profoundly underestimate the power of slight young women such as Ark 1, Kyung-hee or, indeed, Ja-yoon herself.

If you grasped all that without having seen Part 1, you’ll notice that the plot is a bit like a Korean version of Stranger Things, with Ark 1 as The Witch’s version of Eleven, the lab-reared victim-prodigy with extraordinary psionic powers. Writer-director Park Hoon-jung has also grafted on a subplot reminiscent of Orphan Black that involves a bunch of telekinetic young people in rival gangs who are connected to the story. They’re all ridiculously good looking and super-cool, like the members of competing K-pop bands but with extremely murderous instincts. (Bear in mind: the film is extremely gory and has deservedly been given an 18 certificate.)

In the film’s more comic moments it explicitly links the biologically altered transhumans to the developed world’s fetishisation of beauty. For example, when tough tracker girl Jo-hyeon (Seo Eun-soo) is flatteringly described as having “rebel eyes” by a rival (Lee Jong-suk), she, in turn, praises his lovely skin, which is indeed cosmetic-advert perfect. He brushes off the compliment, saying it’s only genetics, and indeed nearly everyone’s looks and powers are “only genetic” in this world. But satire is much less the point than good old-fashioned ass-kicking and special effects, all smoothly executed and doled out in bite-size scenes.

• The Witch: Part 2 is released on 28 November on digital platforms.

Contributor

Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

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