It has been pointed out that the CJ Entertainment Aug. 13 DVD debut of writer/director Jo Sung-hee’s A Werewolf Boy is not necessarily to be approached from an American POV, but rather one should consider the story from a distinctly Korean outlook. Fair enough — either one works in the end.
From the American cinema understanding, this is a werewolf film with a twist; a romantic twist. It is ultimately a sad, bittersweet film that has its moments of horror, but then so did The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is closer to being its cinematic cousin, then, say, The Howling.
Told in flashback, which sets the film in the aftermath of the Korean War, a beautiful teenage girl named Suni (Park Bo-young — Don’t Click) has been moved from Seoul to the countryside for health issues. It is here, during her recovery, that Chul-soo (Song Joon-ki — Penny Pinchers, Heart is ... 2, etc.) comes into her life.
He is seemingly a wandering orphan boy uprooted by the war. The kid is mute and very strange, which we assume — at first — to be the result of the horrors of war and a survival instinct that has reduced him to an animal-like state.
It is her kindness and dedication to him that leads to a fondness and loyalty that could develop into a full-blown romance as the two grow up. But we know from the early set-up that something happens to prevent this … it is unresolved in the past.
From a Korean sensibility A Werewolf Boy is a tale of unrequited love; a love that can never be fulfilled. The fact that Chul-soo has some issues (military experiments gone awry) is quite beside the point.
There is this subtle difference. In American cinema this horror story would have its linear trappings — set-up, development and resolution. In the Korean sense, it is more lyrical, with Suni sacrificing the “resolution” — and potential happiness — for the sake of Chul-soo. The “happily ever-after” timeline is not relevant.
This may seem confusing, but A Werewolf Boy is not a film to be easily pigeonholed. It is part-fairy tale, part-love story and part-social commentary, wrapped with horror trappings.
As to bonus features, CJ Entertainment has included three featurettes and deleted scenes (with commentary). The film is presented in Korean with optional English subtitles.
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