The 8th Night (2021) May Be One Too Many
Title: The 8th Night
First Non-Festival Release: July 2, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Kim Tae-hyung
Writer: Kim Tae-hyung
Runtime: 114 Minutes
Starring: Nam Da-reum, Lee Sung-min, Park Hae-joon
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Long ago a demon wreaked havoc on the world before Buddha put a stop to its reign of terror by tearing its eyes from its body. During the fight, the monster was able to pass from human to human, precisely seven, before it was defeated. Buddha then buried the eyes in separate Śarīra caskets in two distant lands. In the present day, a university professor makes it his mission to prove the existence of this legend and reunite both eyes. The protector of one of the eyes calls monk Chung-seok (Nam Da-reum) to track down the man responsible for preventing this reunification process, Park Jin-soo (Lee Sung-min), a former monk turned construction worker. As the bodies pile up, Detective Kim Ho-tae gets hot on the trail of the monster, as well as the duo trying to stop it.
A confusing yet intriguing spiritual horror epic, The 8th Night skates by as a middling supernatural mystery.
The story, while great in scope, suffers from too many things happening at once. Multiple storylines converging together is not an uncommon strategy to tying up loose ends at the end of a film, but it does not work well here. Those unfamiliar with the legends discussed, will find themselves lost in the lore. The film isn’t really meant for them, and that’s okay, however, it is important to note that when discussing from an American point of view that this reviewer may not quite fully understand this tale.
The 8th Night drags due to serious pacing issues. There is so much to explain, likely to ensure audiences across cultures can understand, which seriously makes the film crumble under the weight of the story. Paring down some of the characters might have helped with the runtime and beef up other character’s arcs. Subplots involving tertiary characters like Chung-seok’s mentor at the monastery of Kim Ho-tae’s protégé feel unnecessary and add little to the character development of either character. The characters themselves are fine, as are the actors, but their inclusion would have worked better had The 8th Night been a series rather than a feature film.
All is not lost here as The 8th Night excels in plenty of its material. The audience is treated to some good visuals here and there. What catches one’s attention is the design of the villain. An eye that buries underneath the skin and opens up in its victims’ wounds, this monster is absolutely the most interesting part of The 8th Night. Nam Da-reum gives the standout performance as Chung-seok, the eager to please and dutiful monk who desperately wants to complete his mission. The rest of the cast does a fine job at playing their characters and pivot accordingly when they need to embody whatever evil is possessing them at the time. Boasting largely great effects and a consistently dark tone with an underlying sense of hope, The 8th Night has the foundations for a solid horror film. It’s a shame that it doesn’t work when put together as the material is admittedly compelling and unique, especially for those unfamiliar.
For an epic horror involving demons, gods, and prophecies, The 8th Night is an oddly sedated film that doesn’t pack the powerful punch it promises. Singling out exactly what is wrong with The 8th Night is difficult. From a technical standpoint it does what it needs to do. The actors are fine, the characters are fleshed out, the camerawork is engaging, there are no obvious flaws in editing, sound, or cinematography. At the end of the day, its biggest sin is blandness. While the story provides for some interesting moments, it fails to grab the audience’s attention and keep it for its bloated runtime. There are plenty of moody South Korean horrors that offer much more than this muddled demon flick.
Overall Score? 5/10