Review: Woochi – The Demon Slayer (2009)

World beware. The wizard is coming.

World beware. The wizard is coming.

WOOCHI: THE DEMON SLAYER (2009)
Not Rated / Color / 136 minutes
Directed by Dong-Hoon Choi
Also Known As: Woochi
Purchase it: Amazon.com (DVD) | Amazon.com (Blu-ray)

I am a sucker for Asian cinema, so I was super excited to check out WOOCHI: THE DEMON SLAYER after watching its trailer! The film is based upon the Korean folktale of Jeon Woochi, a womanizing Taoist wizard who enjoys pranking the aristocracy. (He’s kind of like Korea’s version of Wong Fei-hung.) After coming across a magical flute that holds the key to defeating a race of goblins, Woochi is framed for the murder of his master, and imprisoned within a scroll for 500 years.

Eventually Woochi and his human/hound sidekick Chorangyi, are released from their parchment prisons when a “rat goblin” and a “bunny goblin” appear in modern Korea. (Yeah they sound ridiculous, but both CGI monsters actually look pretty cool!) Though freed to help capture the monsters, Woochi is more interested in wooing the possible reincarnation of an old flame from centuries ago.

Will he pull himself together and become the hero he needs to be? Will he defeat the goblin menace, and stop the evil machinations of an enemy from his past? Well, I suppose it’d be a much shorter movie if he didn’t.

WOOCHI: THE DEMON SLAYER is one of South Korea’s biggest blockbusters. With a budget of only twelve million, the film offers up some impressive CGI and wire stunts. The story is interesting, and there are some really fun moments in this movie. (e.g. The sequence where Woochi utilizes Taoist amulets to clone himself in order to fight two goblins, is probably my favorite part of the movie.)

However, this film runs way too long, and suffers from pacing issues. No one in this movie is in a rush to do anything: There’s no urgency to any of their actions! Every time you think that it’s building towards a big battle between Woochi and his foes, the movie fizzles out! This proves to be a little frustrating to say the least.

About as frustrating as the unexplained moment when Woochi's clones begin turning into brooms after being defeated!

About as frustrating as the unexplained moment when Woochi’s clones begin turning into brooms after being defeated!

It’s this lack of haste that ruins any tension the movie attempts to build. You’ll never experience a moment where you think that the hero may possibly be defeated. Even during the film’s climactic battle between Woochi and his arch-nemesis, you won’t for a moment believe that Woochi will fail.

And that’s my main gripe with WOOCHI: THE DEMON SLAYER, because everything else in the movie works fairly well. It’s a genre-blending film that contains all of the necessary ingredients (there are some great stunts and the comedic moments typically hit their mark), but what it really lacks is a “race against time” element to liven things up.

Despite that, the film is pretty decent, though there were times I was left scratching my head because I’m not too familiar with the legend of Jeon Woochi. Maybe if I had read the Woochi folktale prior to watching this, or was at least a bit familiar with Taoism, I’d probably have a better comprehension of some of the film’s stranger moments.

WOOCHI: THE DEMON SLAYER (a very misleading title, since the film’s protagonist never slays any demons) ultimately disappoints, but isn’t a total loss. I had fun watching the special effects and Woochi’s interactions with his goofy sidekick. Along with a great soundtrack, and inventive wire stunts, I did enjoy WOOCHI enough to grant it:

BLU-RAY REVIEW

The Packaging: The Blu-ray cover (seen above) is generic and a bit misleading (due in part to the flying ninjas in the background) and comes in a standard amaray case with a cardboard slipcover. Actually, after looking at the original movie posters for the film, Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray cover is a definite improvement.

Audio & Video: WOOCHI: THE DEMON SLAYER looks great in its 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen HD transfer, particularly since its a recent movie. The disc comes with four audio choices: Korean DTS-HD 5.1, English Dubbed DTS-HD 5.1, Korean Dolby Digital 5.1, an English Dubbed Dolby Digital 5.1. I switched back and forth between the Korean and English DTS-HD audio options, and the dialogue, sound effects, and music all sound great!

This rabbit goblin is hopping mad!

This rabbit goblin is hopping mad!

My only complaints are minor ones really: While watching the film in its native language, there were a few moments where the subtitles moved a bit too fast. Also, the English dubbed version is atrocious, but then again, I’ve never been a big fan of dubbed foreign films. (With the exception of Toho’s kaiju flicks that is!)

The Extras: Holy cow! This disc is packed with special features including: The original theatrical trailer, thirteen minutes of deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, the “Newest Korean Style Hero Movie” featurette, cast and director interviews, six production featurettes that cover everything from the training of the film’s stars to the lighting and shooting of key scenes, and numerous featurettes focusing on the CGI f/x in the film!

This huge amount of behind the scenes material gives a comprehensive look at the making of WOOCHI. I’m honestly pretty surprised that Shout! Factory included so many extas on this disc. The only (minor) downside is that said extras are in standard definition.

Final Verdict: WOOCHI: THE DEMON SLAYER is an OK movie with an above average blu-ray release. The audio and video presentation is top notch, and the disc is packed to the gills with extras covering every aspect of the film’s creation. If you’re a fan of Asian cinema, and/or like to get an in-depth look at how films are made, then this disc is worth picking up.

I hereby give Shout! Factory’s WOOCHI Blu-ray: