South Korean cinema has a rich history in the horror genre. Train to Busan. The Wailing. Noroi – The Curse. The Medium. I Saw the Devil. The Host. That’s an impressive list and by no means a complete one. Now the latest South Korean offering, Project Wolf Hunting, mixes action and horror alongside generous amounts of blood. Following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festive last fall, Project Wolf Hunting finds its way onto VOD platforms. While its extreme violence may be too much for some audiences, critics have been extremely impressed with the results.
Following the settlement of an extradition treaty, the South Korean government prepares to transport some of its most dangerous criminals back home from the Philippines. When a plane transport proves to be too dangerous, the authorities opt to bring back their cold-blooded offenders on a cargo ship guarded by police detectives. In the middle of the sea, however, the criminals stage a bloody prison break that awakens something much more dangerous deep in the bowels of the ship.
Project Wolf Hunting Mixes Extreme Violence with a Lean, Simple Story
Following on the heels of last year’s Taiwanese The Sadness, Project Wolf Hunting is the last Asian action-horror thriller to rail against boundaries. Though it’s not quite as transgressive in its violence, this South Korean thriller from director Kim Hong-seon may be the most violent movie in recent memory. Arguably, this one even outdoes the recent Evil Dead Rise in terms of blood spilled on screen. Following an opening suicide bombing that ends with the camera lingering on a severed leg, Project Wolf Hunting takes a little time to set up its central premise. Initially, the movie feels like The Raid set on a cargo ship – or a better version of the first third of Morbius. But just like Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn, Project Wolf Hunting swerves audiences when it abruptly shifts into more of a monster movie with shades of Predator mixed into its DNA.
… this South Korean thriller from director Kim Hong-seon may be the most violent movie in recent memory.
And it’s not just the Project Wolf Hunting is an extremely bloody thriller. The violence here is almost relentless and it’s always brutal. Heads and faces are smashed, bodes crushed, limbs ripped off, and the blood also sprays in generous portions. Once the actions start rolling – which is pretty soon into the story – Hong-seon ensures that no one character is safe. There’s an almost frantic sense of pacing for 30 minutes or so in the middle act, which aligns well with the thriller’s claustrophobic setting. Before Hong-seon adds too much backstory, his genetic monstrosity makes for a mysterious and imposing killing machine.
Project Wolf Hunting Loses Focus With Too Much Backstory and Too Many Characters
At nearly two hours in length, however, Project Wolf Hunting can’t completely sustain its feverish pace. No, the violence rarely subsides once it kicks in. But after over an hour of smashing violence and gushing blood, the shock value subsides somewhat and a bit of numbness sets it. Yet it’s not just the length that emerges as a minor issue. Specifically, Hong-seon’s screenplay increasingly feels like a garden allowed to grow wild and out of control. That is, Project Wolf Hunting adds a few too many layers to its background story in the third act. As a result, the thriller loses some focus in the finale just when things should be steaming forward. Maybe Hong-seon was thinking sequel, but this thriller takes its eye off the prize momentarily.
…Hong-seon’s screenplay increasingly feels like a garden allowed to grow wild and out of control.
In addition to some unnecessary background story, Project Wolf Hunting takes too long to give audiences a character with whom to identify as a central protagonist. There’s certainly some initial cleverness to introducing standout characters only to unexpectedly eliminate them. Hong-seon manages to create legitimate danger by removing the assurance that any one character is safe. And the mystery surrounding some characters keeps you engaged in between scenes of bloodshed. Nevertheless, there’s too many characters who come and go quickly to fully invest in anyone. Once Hong-seon settles on one character, it’s too deep into the thriller.
Project Wolf Hunting a Flawed, But Furious Thriller For Fans of the Extreme
Sometimes the simplest premise makes for the most effective. And for about an hour or so, Project Wolf Hunting thrives on a lean concept that pits cold-blooded criminals and cops against an unstoppable killing machine on a claustrophobic cargo ship. Keep in mind, this one isn’t for the faint of heart or weak stomachs. Director Kim Hong-seon delivers brutal, smashing violence complete with buckets of blood. Too much time, too much late backstory, and too many characters water down the intense focus in the third act. Nonetheless, this is compelling stuff for hardcore horror fans.