Father Kim (Yun seok-Kim) is the infant terrible of the South Korean Catholic Church. He won't follow the rules, has radical ideas and now has come to the church leaders with the request to perform an exorcism. The subject Yong-shin (So dam-Park) is a14 year-old girl who is suffering greatly and a member of Father Kim's parish. The leaders try to mention other potential causes pointing out the trouble media exposure could cause. The final decision is to allow Father Kim to proceed but it's not an official endorsement. After a severe misstep Kim's assistant Father Jeong quits. Forced to scramble Kim accepts a student from the seminary Deacon Choi (Dong-wong-Kang) as a replacement. Choi himself has proved to be a rule breaker and risk taker during his studies.
The pair approach the girl who has recently come out of a coma after the prior incident. They are armed with crosses, blessed waters, and a legendary bell from St. Francis. Their goal is to get the demon to state its name. The battle of will starts with the evil spirit throwing out all forms of personal insults imaginable at the two priests. The psychological warfare continues, intensifies as volleys are thrown and repelled but the priests are not initially successful.
Jae huyn-Jang's film will inevitably draw comparisons to the Exorcist. The story differs as the focus is on the assistant Priest. Other than his antics in the Seminary the viewer learns of a tragic event from his youth that greatly affected him then and now. A traditional Korean Shaman appears to make an attempt to remove the evil spirit. The other wrinkle is the lack of focus little on the possessed girl or her family. The parents are an afterthought contained downstairs as the Priests work up in Young-shin's room. Young-Shin only appears in a couple of scenes before the Exorcism begins.
Dong-Wong-Kang's Deacon Choi has the most material to work with in the film. Kang plays joker, fearful, forceful and determined at different points during the piece. He flips from one trait to the other with ease He is particularly effective when delivering his incantations at the demon. Yun soek-Kim takes a more serious tact as Father Kim. He knows too much about the strength of the demon and the potential life and death consequences of his actions.
The Priests is a useful addition to the exorcism catalogue. Director Jang decision to presents the film from a different voice works but more screen time with Young-soo would have helped to flesh out her character and give the audience a more emotional connection to her fate. The ability to present a battle between good and evil without overwhelming special effect is beneficial to the project. The piece is a rare and welcomed foray into the genre by an Asian filmmaker.
** 1/2 Out of 4.
The Priests | Jae huyn Jang | South Korea | 2015 |103 Minutes.
Tags: Exorcist, Priest, Deacon, Possessed, Shaman, Pig, Occult, Religion, Good, Evil.