Review by Sean Boelman
Possession horror flicks are notoriously inconsistent in quality, bringing both some of the best the genre has to offer (The Exorcist) and a sea of B-movies ranging from mediocre to outright awful. Unfortunately, Kim Hong-seon’s film Metamorphosis shares more in common with the latter, an intriguing premise put to waste with mediocre execution.
The movie follows a priest who, after failing to save a young girl’s life in an exorcism, finds that the same form-shifting spirit is attacking his brother’s family out of spite. And while the film offers some interesting takes on worn tropes, this novelty runs out rather quickly, leaving the script to fall back on formula in its final act.
Focusing on the priest as the protagonist rather than the family experiencing the possession was a big mistake. Most supernatural movies focus on the force of good fighting an unfathomable evil, so spending more time with the victims could have brought a much-needed human element into the story.
Admittedly, the cast doesn’t do a very good job of grounding the film. All of the actors go way too big with their roles, making the movie feel schlocky at best and histrionic at worst. It’s clear that Kim wants this to be a bit more grounded than most films of the genre, yet the performances and script don’t let that happen.
The movie is at its best when it allows the demonic presence at the core of the story to wreak havoc on the characters’ lives. It’s morbidly entertaining to watch the way in which the family melodrama devolves into something much more sinister. Sadly, this material is largely confined to the middle act.
One of the most frustrating things here is the lack of scares. There is one sequence in the middle of the film that is truly disturbing, but for the most part, Kim relies on the same deepened voice and grotesquely distorted features to get some visceral reaction out of the audience, and it doesn’t work.
Additionally, the movie has some very bad sound design, and sound is often just as (if not more) important than the visuals in horror. The editing is not very good, with some weird choices made in the placement and use of sound effects, but the mix here is extremely bad. Things are not balanced aurally, and the result is distracting, sometimes to the point of being laughable.
Metamorphosis is built around an interesting idea, but that does not make the film worth watching alone. A few good moments aside, there’s nothing here to scare or disturb, making this a mostly unimpressive entry into the genre.
Metamorphosis hits Shudder on July 2.
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