Woochi: The Demon Slayer Blu-ray Review
Written and Directed by Choi Dong-Hoon
2009, Region A, 136 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on April 9th, 2013
Gang Dong-won as Jun Woochi
Kim Yoon-suk as Hwa-dam
Lim Soo-jung as Seo In-kyeong
Yoo Hae-jin as Chorangyi
Woochi: The Demon Slayer is a pretty simple story delivered in a really complex manner. There is an ancient legend about a magic flute with the power to repel demons, held by a monk assigned to guard the imprisoned beasts. When a minor miscalculation results in the monsters being released prematurely, the flute is lost and chaos ensues. Jun Woochi, Tao master, is summoned to recover the object and restore order to the universe.
Woochi is an impish figure of Shakespearean buffoonery, more concerned with fulfilling basic desires than retrieving the legendary flute. His antics are harmless in nature but upsetting to members of authority and tiresome to any bystander caught up in his arrogant displays of superiority. Woochi’s skills are undeniable and his general demeanor remains fun and infectious so his presence is tolerated, until he is framed for a crime he did not commit.
After an excessively thorough back story, our tale jumps ahead many centuries and resumes in contemporary Seoul, South Korea. Woochi returns to find that despite many changes to his surroundings, the endless fight between good and evil remains constant. He fights many of the same demons in a world that has moved on, surrounded by many familiar faces, but is more inclined to pursue his favorite target: women.
The plot of Woochi is particularly convoluted despite its general simplicity. One suggestion for the viewer is to approach this tale not as a traditional science fiction action film, but rather as a children’s fable. There are quite a few elaborate set pieces throughout the ample running time, but the violence is always cartoonish in nature and immersed in comedy. Anyone unfamiliar with Korean folklore may feel lost, since actors play different (yet similar) characters across multiple time periods. It is to the credit of director Dong-Hoon Choi’s ability as a storyteller that such a lavish adventure is presented in a manner that allows confused audiences to quickly catch up.
The cast is solid for the most part, but the comedy can be grating at times. Gang Dong-won is particularly entertaining in the title role, an instantly likeable figure in search of fun more than anything else. He captures the arrogance and innocence nicely and balances both character traits handily. Woochi’s fighting skills are indeed great, but his overconfidence proves to be a frequent stumbling block, often at the expense of his over-inflated ego. Yoo Hae-jin is given much to work with as Chorangyi, the trusty comedic sidekick, and younger viewers will particularly enjoy his unique abilities. The remaining supporting characters play well enough, but this is clearly our hero’s journey.
Much of Woochi is filled with extensive CGI and it works more often than not. The monsters are represented primarily by two recurring characters, a giant rabbit and rat, and both look quite realistic. Action sequences are primarily well-staged fight scenes that rely heavily on wirework and computer enhancement. There are also numerous pursuits throughout, highlighted by a contemporary car chase through Seoul. Despite the bloated running time, the film moves at a brisk pace and the looping temporal frame lends itself to repeat viewing. Audiences will find a lot to like in this latest offering of high-concept Korean blockbusters. Check it out.
Video and Audio:
Shout! Factory delivers another fine presentation with this domestic debut of Woochi: The Demon Slayer.
Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the picture looks pretty fantastic. The color palette is frequently jaw-dropping, as saturation levels are robust while black levels are solid and never blocky. The extensive CGI elements merge nicely more often than not and night time scenes unfold under a stylized blue umbrella. Flesh tones remain natural throughout and small item detail is sharp.
The film is given a pair of DTS 5.1 HD mixes in both Korean and English as well as similar offerings in DTS 2.0 HD. The primary Korean track is the way to go, as music and effects are evenly balanced and dialogue remains free from distortion. The English dubbing is unfortunately routine, but it is a serviceable option for anyone who would rather not read during a movie. English subtitles are available for purists.
Shout! Factory doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word skimp, as this release includes another generous allotment of supplements.
The Newest Korean Style Hero Movie (6 minutes) is a standard collection of interviews and behind-the-scenes clips showcasing the film for an electronic press kit.
A collection of deleted scenes (14 minutes) offers excised sequences that were wisely trimmed from the final release.
Next up, a traditional making of (25 minutes) featurette offers a glimpse of some of the extensive wire work on set.
A generous series of production featurettes (55 minutes) offers a thorough look at the filming process from early preparation to editing and completion.
A pair of interview galleries (16 minutes) offers face time with the director and members of the cast and crew.
The Magic of Computer Graphics (55 minutes) showcases the extensive CGI that was included in the film.
Finally, the original trailer rounds out the wealth of special features.
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*Note: The screenshots on this page are not a reflection of the Blu-ray image. They were captured using the standard DVD.*