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Format(s) Available
Opening Date
14 Mar 2024
NC16 Some Violence and Disturbing Scenes
134 mins
Korean - subtitles to be advised
Horror, Mystery
Jang Jae-hyun
Choi Min-shik, Kim Go-eun, Yoo Hae-jin, Lee Do-hyun
After suffering from a series of paranormal events, a wealthy family living in LA summons a young rising sharman duo Hwa-rim and Bong-gil to save the newborn of the family. Once they arrive, Hwa-rim senses a dark shadow of their ancestor has latched on the family so-called a ‘Grave’s Calling’. In order to exhume the grave and relieve the ancestor, Hwa-rim seeks help from the top geomancer Sang-duk and the mortician Young-geun. To their dismay, the four find the grave at a shady location in a remote village in Korea. Unaware of the consequences, the exhumation is carried out, yet this rather unleashes a malevolent force buried underneath.
By InCinemas  07 Mar 2024
A satisfying modern-day horror ride.
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Exhuma, written and directed by Jang Jae-hyun (well known for his repertoire of K-horror movies), boasts an impressive line-up of seasoned actors Choi Min-sik, Kim Go-eun, Yoo Hae-jin, along with Lee Do-hyun who made his big screen debut. 
The film opens with two renowned shamans, Hwa-rim (Go-eun) and Bong-gil (Do-hyun) heading to Los Angeles to take on their latest job. An extremely wealthy Korean family has been plagued by inexplainable incidents affecting their first born, to the extent that they are seeking the assistance of the shamans to protect their baby. 
After visiting the baby in a hospital, Hwa-rim detects a sinister presence of the family’s ancestor latching onto the family, known as a 'Grave's Calling'.  Based on her understanding of how to deal with the ‘Grave’s Calling’, Hwa-rim promptly seeks the additional assistance of geomancer Kim Sang-deok (Min-sik) who is the best in his field and undertaker Yeong-geun (Hae-jin) to dig up the grave and appease the angry ancestor. 
From here on, the film successfully turns up the ominous tension notch by notch as the team of four journeys to a remote village in Korea to find the grave. In contrast to its lush picturesque surrounding, the location of the grave and its odd tombstone give Sang-deok and Hwa-rim as well as the audience pause and a foreboding sense of chilling unease.  
Upon examination, Sang-deok declares, “the grave lies in the vilest of plots “. Against better judgment and gut feelings and instead driven by the hefty monetary reward upon successful completion of the job, the team proceeds to perform a “withdrawal ceremony” to appease the evil spirit lurking in the coffin during the exhumation. It is at this point that the film draws taut with tension where the audience observes Hwa-rim performs the “gut” ritual, by brandishing two sharp knives in a rhythmic dance and furiously making cuts on the five pigs as sacrificial offerings, amidst frantic chanting and drumming while the gravedigger fearfully digs to remove the coffin.   
Upon the exhumation, their client instructs them to simply cremate the coffin which seems a violation of both tradition and relevant laws. However, the cremation unexpectedly gets postponed due to sudden inclement weather, and the coffin is moved to a nearby make-shift mortuary where a malevolent force is unleased and terrorises the group. 
Up until now, the film effectively builds up tension and fear surrounding the invisible force of the ‘Grave’s Calling’, amid the anticipation that terrible things will inevitably soon unfold. Particular compliment must be given to Director Jang's meticulous efforts to deliver hyper-realistic and detailed scenes depicting Korean shamanism - such as the traditional process of exhumation and the "gut" rituals held to appease wandering spirits. The audience is gripped by immersive storytelling based on Korean traditions accompanied by excellent ensemble acting. In particular, the scene where Sang-deok gets down to taste the soil of the burial plot and his expression hinting at imminent doom is haunting and sent chills down this writer's spine.
The tension seems to de-escalate a little when the malicious force at the center of the film’s mystery is revealed, which can be attributed to the ensuing sequence of events informing the audience’s understanding of the situation, leaving no room for speculation as to whether the unexplained occurrences could have a reasonable non-supernatural explanation. 
The second part of the film focuses on the stories of the ancestors, including the traumatic history of the Korean Peninsula, which unfold as the group discovers the ominous secret hidden beneath the coffin, and the evil forces which they have inevitably released.   
Will our desperate heroes be able to save the day as they face and battle the villains? I am not telling, lest I spoil your enjoyment.
Exhuma takes on the ambitious task of blending supernatural circumstances, shamanistic rituals and traditions with the heavy subject of the country's traumatic bloody history.  Director Jang has successfully–with the support of a veteran cast–delivered a spellbinding horror tale of generational trauma.

The performances of the core four are exceptional. Go-eun shines as shaman Hwa-Rim and is especially electrifying and I must reiterate that she was terrifying in her shamanism gut ritual scene.
I admit that I am not a massive fan of K-horror, but Director Jang’s ability to create effectively creepy settings which feels authentic along with his slow-burn storytelling injected with mystery, and a strong and consistent narrative structure, has me sold as a fan.

Exhuma is by no means a typical clichéd supernatural horror film replete with numerous jump scares. It is a satisfying modern-day horror ride, imbued with the right amount of intrigue, terror, blood and gore, as well as effectively showcases the acting chops of its terrific cast.    
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