Edited by Yang Young Jun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
There is a girl who can curse someone to death by using their names, pictures, and belongings. She tries to dig into the secrets of the chairman of an IT conglomerate along with a righteous reporter. Where is this from? It is the story of tvN’s drama, The Cursed.
Shaman and Gut (rituals performed by Korean shamans) that appeared in mass media were mostly depicted as those with a definite purpose of “exorcism” and “research/study.” They were either used in exorcism as the shamans borrow the power of the supernatural or in solving cold cases by finding the clues or foreseeing the future.
However, The Cursed uses the “occult” differently. Shamans and Gut are present, but their primary purpose is to harm someone. If the shaman of ‘Bangbup’ curses a person, he will die as his entire body gets twisted. Or, the other shaman can prevent the curse and “reverse” it to cause the damage to the original shaman. The scene where two shaman exchange ‘curse’ and ‘reversal curse’ has previously highlighted THE WAILING, but The Cursed is the first work ever to portray the ‘Bangbup’ curse in earnest.
The Cursed is intriguing because it relates the supernatural subject of “curse” with social issues. Previously, director Yeon Sang Ho described the modern society as “an era in which hatred can be expressed with a single click” and “an era in which many people suffer and even take their own lives after being bullied, cursed and hated through both online and offline.” Since most of the terrible things that happen these days come from this, his statement is not so wrong.
Also, Forest, an IT company in the play, was able to grow in such pace by providing a channel to vent the anger and hatred toward others. Since the drama views the current social problems caused by vast developments in technology from the viewpoint of shamanism, the audience has no choice but to be captivated.
Among all the characters, the main character, Baek So Jin, particularly grabs attention. Baek is a character who is not bound by the world’s formality and believes that the only way to fight evil is to have a “bad mind.” The “anti-hero” characters, whose boundary of good and evil is ambiguous, have often been portrayed in many works, including Deadpool and Bad Guys. However, unlike the previous works in which an adult male is the main character, the fact that a teenage girl shares such beliefs comes to the viewers as somewhat strange yet charming.
Of course, no matter how attractive the characters are, if the actors cannot perform them, it will all be for nothing. But the cast of The Cursed consists of “go-to” actors, all of whom showed impressive performances in their recent movies. All the actors, including Sung Dong Il, who hid the absolute evil under a smile and Cho Min Soo, a shaman with everything about her under a veil, not to mention Jeong Ji So of Parasite, enliven the story. Overall, they make the typical story of “confrontation between good and evil” even more compelling.
The eight minutes long take of “Gut scene” performed by Cho Min Soo can certainly be considered as the highlight of the drama. If you’re curious, you can check out the video above.
On the other hand, there are times when I get the impression that the script doesn’t prop up the characters well enough. Some are also pointing out that the control over the speed and tension feels somewhat rocky. These shortcomings are especially evident in the “Baby Shaman in Asandong” scene in the 5th episode and “Jinkyung, the Stock Company” scene in the 6th episode. Also, some of the characters and touches of humor are probably there to change the atmosphere of the drama from time to time, but to be honest; I feel like they just turned out as bad choices that diminish the overall tone.
Despite the small problems, The Cursed is still an attractive piece of work. Although the drama failed to stand out with such strong contenders at the beginning, it is slowly gaining viewers’ attention (metropolitan area viewers rating of 5.5%, Nielsen). Because we still live in an era where people turn to shamanism to find comfort and path even in this science-dominated world, “the combination of modern society and shamanism” presented in the drama comes close to the audience. Since the movie version of the drama has also been confirmed, I hope to see director Yeon Sang Ho’s original “supernatural universe” in the future once again.
Verdict: An occult thriller with Yeon Sang Ho’s challenge and the actors’ impressive performance (7/10)