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  • What starts out as a fine Korean period piece takes a sudden turn for the super-natural as an ancient spirit returns for revenge upon the empire which imprisoned it. Flying acrobatics abound and the film is all the more entertaining for it.

    Going back to B.C. Korea, the rising Shilla empire wipes out an occult clan in the attempt to unify the people. The clan's leader happens to be a powerful sorcerer and promises revenge before being sealed away with a magical sword. Fast forward almost a thousand years and we find the Shilla empire in some disarray; rebels threaten the outer empire and the kingdom's greatest general has left his position to marry a peasant girl. After he finally returns to arms, royal guards attempt to assassinate his wife. While in her own defense, she removes the magic sword from it's resting place, thus unleashing the vengeful spirit and putting the entire empire in danger.

    The main plot is a little slim. The evil spirit is largely under developed and the human conflicts are passed over too quickly to generate much emotion. The cause of this is the short running time, 92 minutes does not a lot much time to examine the intricate workings of an ancient Korean political system, much less exploring the super-natural story line. As such, both plots feel like side stories rather than either feeling like the core of the film.

    Fortunately the rest of the film makes up for the story's lacking. The budget is obviously not big, but they do a good job of convincing you others wise. The actors are pretty good, so far as the script allows, and the cinematography is catching to the eye. There are some low-rent CG images, but they brief enough so as not to intrude.

    The biggest success of the film is the fight scenes, and being a historic war picture that makes up for a lot. Well shot and choreographed, with buckets of blood with nearly every sword strike, the fight scenes evoke a great sense of cathartic release.

    A fun action/drama/horror/war picture that just needed a beefed up script to be really great. Regaurdless, still recommended.

    8/10
  • humpback15 August 2004
    Warning: Spoilers
    Lucky Me, I got to watch this at the local "Fantasy Film Fest" (under its anglicised title "Legend of Evil Lake"), and was pretty well surprised.

    First off - humanly possible, yet well choreographed swordfights/meleeing, plus some more inhuman demonic magicking. This felt nice for a change, I for one start to grow bored and jaded once one enters the realm of obvious wire-Fu these days - there are some extraordinary movies and hundreds of mediocre wanna-bees down that particular road. The fighting here seemed authentic, yet breath-taking and tense - without even a single bouncing of the walls or ceiling. Second, the plot, while featuring a love-story at its core, was less saccharine then one would dread imagine (Korean movies are notorious with regard to that ), with the possible love triangle put to good effect, motivation-wise, yet never dominating the unfolding plot.. Third, cinematography, set-design ( breathtaking - especially the palatial sequences and the ruin setting for the exorcism), backdrops and even the soundtrack are definitely top-notch. Well, Korean movies are rightfully famous for that, still it's pleasing to see. Fourth, the acting was solid, although the sub-titles did not seem to do justice to the inflections notable in the actors' voices. On the other hand, longer sub-titles would distract from the viewing even more. And the plot at least attempted to fill a lot of background and motivations in, although doing so less obviously than most generic Hollywood exposees (usually via the explanation to the coincidentally hapless know-nothing )...

    <spoilers AHEAD> The plot ? It steers nicely on the line between heroic adventure and mystical tragedy - from the opening sequence, where the ancient Korean High King entombs an evil demon-worshiping shaman into the ground of a sacred hollow, binding him into the very ground with his sacred sword (which must stay stuck...) to the main story nine-hundred years later, where in the embattled realm of Shilla the high general Biharang is not only beset by the numerous enemies of his queen, but also by her love, which he cannot reciprocate, because of his love for the peasant girl Jaumbie. Things really start to roll, when assassins send from the royal court ( though not by the queen, some rivals try to upset her relationship with her commander ) try to kill Jaumbie, who, flying through the woods near the ill-omened lake pulls an old sword from the ground in self-defence...

    From that point forward, everything is up for grabs, as the demon-shaman makes a swift, possessive and bloody comeback and plans to take painful revenge on the royal bloodline, Biharang trying to save his love Jaumbie (who is possessed/dominated by the demon after drowning in said lake), the queen and the realm at the same time, courtiers scheme and rivals get in the way. Things get very bloody at times, and torture, dismemberment and some exorcisms round out the list of "bad-things-happening". Some unexpected plot-twists and exorcisms make things even more complicated, and only in the parting shots is the eventual outcome finally revealed - just who can be saved, and at what price....

    This is definitely worth watching if you like Asian sword-fighting stories, unless of course you absolutely want/need/crave wire-Fu (not much of that) or massive explosions (none at all). Yes, it is not quite a "Musa - the Warrior", and yes, it has some weaknesses but not every worthwhile movie is the "Godfather" either, and even the "Godfather" has its faults, right ? I will definitely try to see this again, which will probably mean getting the DVD, seeing how few Korean and other Asian movies make their way to Europe and the US these days.

    8/10 chopsticks
  • martine-127 April 2004
    The movie starts with the evil sorcerer from one of many clans in China at the time captured and bound by the current emperor. Fast forward circa 800 years and general Biharang is fighting the rebels while his love waits for him at home. At the same time the queen is in love with Biharang, he only has eyes for his love though.

    The queen and her advisors do not approve of this and plots against Biharangs girlfriend, sending her into a series of events that unleashes the evil that was trapped almost a thousand years ago, taking over her own body. Will Biharang be able to fight this evil without killing his loved one? Will he be able to battle the scheming advisors and a love struck queen?

    This might not be such an epic movie as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but it's still quite enjoyable. The story contains love, drama and suspense, the acting is more than ok, the effects, while not up to ILM standards, gets the job done.

    Don't try and cram this movie into the standard Hollywood formula since most asian movies that are worth watching doesn't fit into this formula. Try to concentrate less on the evolution of the plot and more on the feeling of the movie and the, in my opinion, very well done camera work.

    Well worth watching if you can find it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When I saw this movie, I couldn't help but see some parallels with the Arthurian legend. Both visually and in the plot. Visually, we've got this misty lake, and some "sword shots" as I might call them, that are quite obviously inspired from there. As for the plot, the relation between the three main characters echoes somewhat the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot threesome.

    Before going any further, I might do a brief plot summary with MILD SPOILERS, as it's basically just the beginning of the story, not the outcome, but you are warned :

    ---------------------------------------

    The movie opens on a bloody moon, at the end of the era of magic. The Emperor of the newly formed Shilla kingdom seals the power of an evil sorcerer in a lake by thrusting a magical sword into the ground. As long as the swords remain there, the evil spirit shall be contained.

    A thousand years later, as the Shilla kingdom is under great turmoil, General Biharang is a great warrior that fights to protect the throne, which is occupied by Queen Chinsong. She is deeply in love with him, but he refuses her advances, because he loves another woman, a beautiful peasant girl named Jahunbie. At the palace, nobody approves of this relationship, thinking it might eventually turn the General against his Queen.

    So, as Biharang is sent on a mission, Jahunbie is attacked by assassins, and while trying to escape, she stumbles on the sword that was protecting the kingdom. And as she draws it from the ground to defend herself, little does she know she just sealed her fate and is about to bring many things to their end. As she end up falling in the evil lake, the spirit of the sorcerer takes control of her.

    Now, Biharang having learned of her death, is bent on finding who ordered to kill her, and he has little doubt about who that person might be... But he comes face to face with Jahunbie, the girl he thought dead, who is now possessed. He then struggles to free her and save her, but all odds are against him.

    --------------------- END SPOILERS ----

    So the story is really about this impossible love triangle, set on a medieval fantasy background story. The acting is quite good, especially Jun-ho Jeong who plays General Biharang.

    While the movie packs a good deal of action, the focus really isn't on that. Visually the action compares to what we saw in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. If you can accept a person empowered with magic can fly, you'll have no problem with the action here.

    As for the lighting, it's sometimes a bit cheesy, but we've seen the same kind of lighting in the Lord of the Rings, and apparently it hasn't bothered many people, so I guess it won't be the case either here. It succeeds in creating this great moody fantastic atmosphere that inhabits the movie.

    Cinematographically, it is not revolutionary, but quite good in my opinion. There are some really beautiful shots in that movie.

    So in the end would I recommend it ? Definitely. 8 out of 10.
  • Vartiainen20 October 2015
    The first king of the Silla kingdom united the various Korean tribes under his iron fist through the use of superior technology and tactics. One of those tribes was led by a sorcerous chief, who was imprisoned within a lake by the Silla king after he had sworn vengeance against him for the destruction wreaked upon the tribe. A thousand years pass and stories become legends, legends become myths, yada yada. Now the Silla kingdom has stood for almost a millennia, but once again it's threatened both from within and by outsiders.

    The biggest problem with this film is the fact that it doesn't invest its viewers. None of the characters are given proper personalities beyond their general archetypes, for one. The main character is a skilled general, and that's about it. His intended is the intended, and that's about it. The lovelorn empress is the lovelorn empress. There are some additional touches, like the fact that the main character is apparently of lower birth, but they don't really add all that much to the story.

    The story is riddled with clichés and is also baffling in details. For example, the title of the movie is The Legend of the Evil Lake. Emphasis on the word 'evil'. Yet, the very first scene shows us the chief imprisoned within the lake simply because he had issues with his tribe being taken over by the Silla king. Don't know about the rest of you, but I'm with the chief on this one. Down with the Silla kingdom! Which makes watching the movie a touch aggravating when it so clearly assumes we're on the Silla side of the conflict.

    Aside from all that, it's not really a bad movie. The fight scenes are nice, the locations are gorgeous, the clothing, make-up and all that stuff works really well, and as a whole it's simply an okay Asian fantasy/horror film. If only the story had been even halfway decent this might have amounted to something.
  • stikky3 February 2004
    Hmm... where do I start? Fighting scenes were horribly choreographed, acting was mediocre at best, not much character development, plot was really weak ... and given the low expectations of typical action movies, it still did not meet my LOW expectations. I recommend _Musa_ instead of this one -- for obvious reasons.