The Cursed: Dead Man’s Prey (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): A well-made interseason episode

I must confess that, as a nerdy guy who has seldom watched TV for many years, I really did not know anything about South Korean TV drama series “The Cursed”, whose second season will soon be started in this year. As a matter of fact, I thought “The Cursed: Dead Man’s Prey” was just another usual summer horror thriller film to be reviewed before watching it yesterday, so I did not expect much from the very beginning, but, to my small surprise, it turns out to be more competent and entertaining than I expected at first.

According to the information I gathered later, the movie is set between the first and second season of “The Cursed”, and its first act quickly establishes the latest case of In Jin-hee (Uhm Ji-won), a righteous and passionate social issue reporter who has run an independent online news channel since the end of the first season of “The Cursed”. While she appears on a popular radio show for an interview about her recently published book on occult stuffs, there comes a mysterious call from some anonymous guy, and he announces that he recently committed a murder and will also kill three certain people within a short time unless he gets what he wants.

As already shown to us during the opening scene, this unknown dude is not kidding at all, and the police have been quite baffled by what they found at the crime scene. While it is clear that the victim was murdered via a deadly poison, a figure supposed to be the one who committed the murder was also found dead right at the crime scene, and, according to the following autopsy, this figure’s body has actually been dead for several weeks at least.

Once she gets to know more about this strange case, Jin-hee becomes more determined to delve into it, and the person behind the case already gave an opportunity for that. During that radio show interview, he promised that he will show himself at a spot where she will give him an exclusive interview, and the police investigation team, which is incidentally led by Jin-hee’s detective husband, promptly prepares to catch their suspect on the spot.

Of course, their suspect turns out to be not a normal person at all when he finally shows himself in front of Jin-hee, and she and her colleagues subsequently do some research on the supernatural aspects of their case. They come to focus on a certain strange mark which seems to suggest something quite sinister behind their case, and we accordingly get a little lecture scene provided by an occult culture expert brought by them. According to this expert, that strange mark is connected with a strong Indonesian curse which can reanimate and then control dead bodies from the distance, and they must find the controller for stopping it once for all.

Meanwhile, Jin-hee and her team also investigate about not only the victims but also those three targeted figures in question. It is not much a spoiler to tell you that they are all associated with some very big pharmaceutical corporation, and you can easily guess why the controller is so angry at these persons and that pharmaceutical corporation.

While trying to find the controller in addition to saving the targeted figures, Jin-hee and the police soon come to realize how unstoppable their opponent is. Their opponent later turns out to have heaps of dead bodies to be reanimated and then controlled, and the movie gives us a tense action sequence where these controlled dead bodies do lots of action together for accomplishing their master’s goal. I must say that I have no idea on how the controller can actually coordinate their actions and movements (Is this person also a grand master of multitasking, I wonder?), but director Kim Yong-wan and his crew members skillfully handle this action sequence with enough energy and excitement.

As Jin-hee struggles more for solving the case, she feels more of the need for extra help, and then there comes Baek So-jin (Jung Ji-so), a young woman who has a particular set of supernatural skills. As they closely worked together before So-jin left the country for her spiritual healing, Jin-hee is certainly glad about So-jin’s return, and So-jin is already ready to use her certain dark side to fight against their mighty opponent.

Around its last act, the screenplay by Yeon Sang-ho, who has been mainly known for “Train to Busan” (2016) and also previously collaborated with Kim in the first season of “The Cursed”, comes to lose some of its narrative momentum, and we consequently become more aware of its weak points. For example, it is so obvious to us that a certain supporting character is going to be very, very, very crucial later in the story because, well, that character is played by a performer recognizable to many South Korean audiences, and that surely takes me back to the time-honored law of economy of characters, which was frequently mentioned by my late friend/mentor Roger Ebert.

Nevertheless, the movie keeps engaging us as briskly rolling toward its expected climax, and the mast cast members are solid in their respective roles. While ably holding the center during the first half of the film, Uhm Ji-won clicks well with Jung Ji-so during several key scenes of theirs later in the movie, and several supporting performers in the film including Jung Moon-sung, Kim In-kwon, Ko Kyu-pil, Kwon Hae-hyo, Lee Seol, and Oh Yoon-ah dutifully fill their functional roles around Uhm and Jung.

In conclusion, “The Cursed: Dead Man’s Prey” is a well-made interseason episode which can entertain its target audiences as well as other audiences like me, and its target audiences will surely have more expectation on the second season of “The Cursed”, which incidentally gets a little teaser moment at the end of the end credits of the movie. To be frank with you, I am not that interested in watching South Korean TV dramas despite being a South Korean, but, considering that I was entertained enough by the film, maybe I should give a chance to “The Cursed” someday.

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