The idea of combining action with a demon possession narrative is not exactly original, although this is the first time I have seen an MMA-fighting character punch the demon-possessed in the face as a way of combating the evil. At the same time, although the possession narrative may have added action elements, this never removes the dramatic core of the story in the South Korean horror film, The Divine Fury, which fittingly deals with issues of faith lost and regained. William Friedkin has long said that he considers The Exorcist to be more of a film about faith than horror, and The Divine Fury follows in that tradition. It just adds some enjoyable fight choreography along the way.
The heart of The Divine Fury is found in its brief prologue, during the childhood of the film’s protagonist. After the protagonist loses his father in a tragic accident that occurred while he was working as a police officer, the young boy curses God. As he grows up, Yong-hu (Seo-jun Park) puts all of his energy and repressed anger into fighting, and becomes a champion MMA fighter as a result. When this anger begins to bleed out into his life outside of the ring, as well as literally bleeding from a wound on his hand, Yong-hu reluctantly looks to a priest for answers.
The priest that Yong-hu looks to is Father Ahn (Sung-Ki Ahn), a man whose soft demeanor is contrasted by his hardened abilities to combat pure evil. Worn down by years of performing exorcisms, Father Ahn is in desperate need of assistance when he meets Yong-hu, who has a unique capacity to fulfill that need. It turns out that the wound on Yong-hu’s hand is actually the sign of stigmata, which proves to be a deadly weapon against the intruding demons. But it is not as simple as a single exorcism, as both Yong-hu and Father Ahn discover a darker source of evil spreading the demon possessions. In order to stop the threat at its source, the pair set out to hunt down the evil inhabiting a man named Ji-sin (Do-Hwan Woo).
The film is at its strongest in the quiet scenes of discussion between our two evil-fighting protagonists. There is some decent supernatural horror, even if the CGI occasionally lets down the other production elements. The action is enjoyable, despite at times feeling a little unnecessary given the protagonist’s ability to evacuate the demons with a mere touch. Where the movie never seems to falter is in the relationship between the two heroes, one of which is still healing from the loss of a father figure, and the other having the compassion and capacity to fulfill that role.
The Divine Fury is not a perfect film (although apparently a successful enough to warrant a spin-off film with one of the supporting characters), but that did not stop me from being invested. As much as I love action and horror, which this film included to my enjoyment, it is the melodrama that repeatedly impresses me within South Korean cinema, and The Divine Fury is no exception. Even if The Divine Fury does not do everything perfectly, it does a lot more things than the average film, and it does them all well enough.
The Blu-ray release of The Divine Fury comes with two featurettes and a trailer. There is a making-of featurette, as well as behind-the-scenes footage of the production. An English-language track is also available, for those who don’t want to read subtitles.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Special Features: 3/10