Story: Two and a half thousand years ago, evil roamed the world in shape of a monster which wanted to turn the whole world into hell. But Buddha confronted the creature and took away its source of power, a black and a red eye. He put the eyes in two different sealed boxes and had one buried far to the west and the other one far to the east. Now, the eye in the west has been discovered and it is on its way to its counterpart. For this, it has to jump into different mediums within eight nights. The Buddhist master who guards the other eye entrusts his young student Cheon-seok (Nam Da-reum) with the eye and explains that he has to go visit his successor Jin-soo (Lee Sung-min). The master then dies. Jin-soo has long turned his back on the temple, but when Cheon-seok shows up at his place, he immediately knows what happened. The only way for Jin-soo to cut off the monster's path is to destroy the last link in the chain of humans that the eye uses as steppingstones. It is the only person the former monk already knows: a virgin shaman. In the meantime, the police, under the command of Kim Ho-tae (Park Hae-joon), have to deal with a series of strange deaths. From one moment to the next, the victim's bodies decompose. The dead people are the mediums the monster used on its way to its all-encompassing power.
Review: When "The 8th Night" appeared on my Netflix recommendations list, it immediately caught my interest. "Svaha - The Sixth Finger" already managed to surprise me in a positive way, which in turn went into the same direction as "The Wailing", one of Korea's best horror movies. The mixture of Buddhism and shamanism creates an unusual platform on which all kinds of supernatural elements can be depicted that you normally don't get to see. For Western viewers this is a culturally new facet as well, and therefore the movie creates a completely different form of unease and fascination. Unfortunately, this is exactly where "The 8th Night" gets lost in. A lot of things in the movie are just supposed to come across as mystical and enigmatic, but we don't get a reasonably structured story. Instead, after our initial curiosity, we have to endure a lot of boredom for an exceptionally long time. And even after that, the story is pretty disappointing.
At first, you can't help but notice some similarities to "The Exorcist". While the shamanistic rituals certainly give the whole thing its own touch, the movie generally seems to not only model itself after this work, but also after the other two local productions mentioned before. But above all, "The 8th Night" lacks a proper flow. For example, we get to see the monster's mythology at the beginning, only to then hear pretty much the same thing when it is later told to another person. Besides, at a certain point of the story, we are actually just getting from one place to the next. It is almost ridiculous how often we get to see the two monks sit in a bus or a taxi. And even though we mostly know why exactly we are on our way to a certain location, it somehow always seems quite unnecessary. The script would have needed some revision and, above all, some cutting-back.
But most of all, "The 8th Night" feels way too long. Or at least, the time given should have been used to create a special chemistry between the odd couple who want to save the world - unfortunately, you quickly forget how high the stakes actually are. The lack of interaction between the two is due to the fact that the young monk, played by Nam Da-reum ("Chronicle of a Blood Merchant"), took a vow of silence, which he keeps most of the time, and that the former monk, played by Lee Sung-min ("The Beast"), generally doesn't talk that much either. Even though he does have something impenetrably mysterious about him and there also seem to be some demons in his past, we don't really warm up to him - or maybe it's exactly because of those reasons. The young monk with his actually quite cheerful nature represents a nice counterweight to him, but especially a few scenes which briefly show us some humor, make it all the more clear to us how much more interesting the relationship between the two could have been.
In addition, the past of these two is also linked by unfortunate circumstances. This is only hinted at at first, but it is somehow quite obvious, and when we finally learn the whole truth, we ask yourself whether this aspect of the story could not have been dropped entirely. Because it is officially introduced far too late, and therefore doesn't succeed in establishing a stronger emotional bond between the audience and the two heroes. But if the two protagonists don't manage to keep us glued to the screen, then maybe the horror scenes will? Absolutely not. The flick's atmosphere is clearly bleak and can actually be called one of the movie's strengths, but there really aren't any creepy scenes at all. And it doesn't get bloody either. Whenever it kind of gets interesting, the movie cuts to the next scene. Only the score tries to create a little horror atmosphere here and there, but it's just too obtrusive to actually work.
The concept of a supernatural creature that is able to take over people's bodies could have been used perfectly to establish a mood of discomfort and create paranoid heroes, because after all, the monster could be anybody. But the movie doesn't tap that potential. The monster always pretty much reveals its identity. Sometimes the creature's excessive artificial smile even seems unintentionally funny. Occasionally, you also get the feeling that the moviemakers maybe didn't have that much money at hand. The finale in a forest also suggests that, as well as demons roaming around as black clouds; and so, this work has a bit of a cheap touch, too. The twists towards the end are also rather mediocre, or at least, they are not presented appealingly, especially since everything gets a bit chaotic towards the finale, and director Kim Tae-hyung didn't seem to know in which direction he wanted his debut work to go. To make matters worse, he also attempted to include a few pseudo-sophisticated monologues, which were supposed to show the Buddhist roots of the characters. But sadly, here the director fails just as much as he did with trying to create a subtly creepy horror flick.