User Reviews (11)

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  • This supernatural thriller is surely one of the best Korean indies from last year. It's very dark, poetic, yet sometimes funny too, although the humour is mostly limited to the film's first half.

    There is a relaxed atmosphere to the film's first act, which is bathed in vivid, bright colors and followed by a quality soundtrack that matches the theme and setting. Here and there director Kim Gwang-tae inserts a foreboding scene that serves to build up a sense of dread, and this slow-burning technique can work wonders in a genre film. Such is the case here - even though this is Kim's directorial debut, he proves himself very adept at creating suspense while mostly avoiding the usual melodrama (so often seen in Korean cinema).

    The second act caught me off guard because it suddenly turns the film upside down and throws you in a very uncomfortable situation along with the film's protagonist. If you know the legend of the Pied Piper, you will probably guess what happens next, but everyone else will likely be shocked and thrilled every minute that follows. There are a couple of gruesome twists thrown in for the viewer's pleasure, and while many scenes will be familiar to the Korean cinema afficionados, they're skilfully executed and beautifully shot. The ending kinda had me thinking at first because it felt strange and somehow logically inconsistent, but it's actually faithful to the legend and is fantastic in it's own right. It's definitely appropriate to the film's overall tone and will stay with you for a long time.

    The more I think about the movie, the more I like it; there's really so much to praise here and so little to criticize. The acting and characters are mostly fine, the mood is pitch perfect and every dialogue is well written at the very least. OK, maybe some characters could have been more fleshed out, and a few scenes may feel out of place, but you have to be aware of the fact that this is an indie effort probably made on a tiny budget, so these complaints can be easily overlooked.

    In short, check this out if you love Asian thrillers and/or dark fables for adults. The Piper is an intense, emotional, often dreamlike experience, and it's definitely worthy of your precious time.
  • A terrific film that, along with Train to Busan the following year, shows how far Korean horror has developed since The Host. Starting slowly, the story develops its characters and the sense of post-war suspicion well. Subtle clues, and some less subtle, gradually add to the sense of unease as the father earns the villagers' trust and friendship before they turn against him. The last third builds mercilessly towards its tragic conclusion. Despite nods to the Piper of Hamelin and The Fog, the film never feels derivative and the viewer is pulled along with the dripfeed of revelations. Well worth a watch.
  • This is an interesting take on the classic Pied Piper tale, but be warned, this is not for kids. The film's acting and atmosphere was really great. It is the type of film where you never know what to expect and will not be prepared for what is to happen. The bond between Father and son was excellently portrayed, and made the film's ending that much more effective. It is a very dark tale of revenge and the film's ending might leave you a bit disturbed, knowing what will ultimately happen.
  • billcr1216 March 2018
    I recall watching the American movie Willard more than thirty years ago. Roddy McDowell was the star. He befriended a bunch of rats who obeyed him like trained dogs. This time around, a man travelling with his ten year-old son through the Korean countryside, stops at a remote village where the people are hiding from the war. They have a major rat infestation and the stranger agrees to rid them of the rodents for the price of a pig. He uses an ingenious method to extract the vermin. Betrayal follows soon after and that is when the fun begins. Revenge is sweet and I will leave it at that. The film is a bit too long but it is a fun ride nonetheless.
  • At first I thought this movie is horror, but almost half of the movie is period drama. I enjoy most of them, although I am not expecting that the movie really doesn't adding some hints/mystery until the last half. Luckily, all's worth to wait and the climax is really good. I guess it's the uniqueness of many Korean movies/dramas, which able to put climax/super important scene in the middle, then keep the tense until the end. Same thing happens here. Sonnim (literally, The Guest), brings all drama sequence into a twisting climax that I've never encounter it before in my watching experience.

    What's discourage me to give this movie Perfect 10 is its prolonged drama sequence that ruins the pace for me. I don't know, the mass characters in odd town/village always strange to me, but due to the different nature between the first and last half of the movie, it makes their action seems can't be justified easily. Still, it's a great film and for those who love twisted side of a classic lore turns into a live action, surely it's one of the magnum opus(es) you want to see.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A musician with a bad foot and a 10 year old son limps into a remote Korean village, post Korean war. The village has no name and holds secrets and "Ben" sized CG rats. He convinces a woman in the village to travel to Seoul with him. The piper knows that the war is over, or suspended, and the chief forbids him to tell anyone in the village. This is all woven into a modern Korean version of the classic tale.

    There is plenty of blood and a good bit of violence. Unlike Willard, most if not all of the rats are CG. The film moves slowly and allows things to develop and I mean that in a good way. Dubbed in English.

    Guide: No swearing, sex, or nudity.
  • Stevieboy66621 January 2018
    Warning: Spoilers
    A piper and his sick son stay the night at a remote Korean village. They have a rat problem which he cures, but when it's time to pay for his services the villagers turn on him cruelly. This is quite a slow but engaging and nicely filmed movie. It's not until the final quarter that it becomes a horror film, with the piper using the ousted rats to get his bloody revenge but it is well worth the wait.
  • Strange and formidable dark fairytale that i wouldn't describe as a horror though that is not to downplay its power.

    Impressive in its tone, it's very easy to take it seriously even with the comical handling. A criticism I make of a lot of movies is that they "don't judge their own tone well" which is really just a way for me to say I couldn't get into it that makes me sound more articulate than I really am but here it really is a treat to see a movie that is pretty much note perfect in the story it wants to tell, being atmospheric in its folkloric tale of bargains and power struggles with a mystical centre.

    There are only two real flaws if you can get into it at all: one is that the rats are frequently unconvincing (on that not, this is NOT for people with a problem with rats. It's like that scene in Ratatouille but more so).

    Secondly...there's just too much of it. I can't think right away of a bit they could cut or trim because it's pretty efficient storytelling but you will feel this movie in your numb buttocks.

    Ultimately this movie really makes me want to like it. It develops and resolves with the perfect timing of a virtuoso, able to sell to you that we live in a world of magic without ever compromising its status as a serious fairytale for adults.

    The acting is impeccable (even from our youngest actor), the star conveying pathos and humour in a way we haven't' seen since Giulietta Masina and the antagonist has a smouldering power you just love to hate.

    And the music... even if you don't watch this movie, buy the soundtrack, all the music, diegetic or otherwise, is a treat for the ears.

    Not for everyone but I am certain to check out the writer's other stuff. A movie that truly feels like it was made out of passion.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If there's one thing you can count on in regard to Korean Horror is that they'll never let you down. Stupid teenagers exploring abandoned hospitals is not their forte, and if they did delve into that territory, they'd certainly be more creative and intelligent than the crap Hollywood spews out every week or so.

    This movie is worth seeing if you're a fan of Grimm's Fairy Tales or Hans Christian Anderson stuff. The elements of the stories are there, except there is a dark twist aligned with them. This film is no exception. As ghost/shaman stories go, this outing is adequate - neither great nor poor. Basically, it does what it set out to do - deliver horror, albeit in small doses. The rats were pretty realistic, too. Just for those few CGI scenes I'd say give the film a shot.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    THE PIPER is another dark fairy tale from South Korea, following in the wake of HANSEL & GRETEL. It's a gruesome and queasy horror outing with a rural village setting similar to that of BEDEVILLED. The story is that of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, albeit with plenty of new twists for anyone familiar with that tale. A piper and his ailing kid turn up at a rural village after the end of the Korean War and promise to help out with the local rat infestation. All goes well until the villagers renege on their deal, with disastrous consequences. This is generally an atmospheric and well-made little production, with typically strong photography and performances. It's gruesome without being over the top gory, and the main characters are sympathetic. The use of CGI rats can be a bit distracting but they're hidden in the shadows for the most part. The first half of the film is all set-up and thus a little slow, but it soon builds to a jaw-dropping crescendo at the climax.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    (I have tried to avoid any spoilers by writing at a high level of abstraction, but better safe than sorry: I threw a spoiler tag on this review.)

    What happens when the "rats" of history overwhelm a society? When persons with varying degrees of moral culpability, who each "agree" not to speak of past crimes in return for social cohesion, are forced to continually deal with those past crimes?

    The Piper is a deeply disturbing film to view. But I can think of only a few movies in the "horror" or "thriller" genres that have touched me as deeply as has Kim Gwang-Tae's debut: Hitchcock's Vertigo. Aster's Hereditary. Visconti's The Damned. Eggers' The Lighthouse. Through a careful interweaving of folk-lore and Western horror tropes, The Piper ends up addressing a truly humanistic question: What happens to societies when the refugees and cast-offs of various wars and dislocations request assistance and aid, but then fall victim to not only their own individual foibles but also the criminal designs of others?

    On one level, the narrative at work in The Piper is a bit of a familiar folk-tale: That of the needful outsider who, taken in by a conservative community, eventually introduces elements of disorder that bring about ruin for both the outsider and the community.

    In this particular folk-tale, a man of good heart (Woo-ryong) and his son (Young-nam), are on a journey through a Korean forest on their way to the city (Seoul) so that the son can be treated for his breathing problems (tuberculosis). Tired, they stop in a small mountain village, where the local Chief takes them in on condition that Woo-ryong rid the village of its rat problem. Woo-ryong does so by studying the wind patterns in the village and creating two powders that, respectively, drive the rats into the open and then lures the rats to a cave that Woo-ryong then seals with a boulder. In return, Woo-ryong is to be given the equivalent of the value of "a cow," which money he wants to use for Young-nam's treatment.

    But by additionally, first, constructing a swing for the village children (angering the Chief's already jealous son) and, second, falling in love with the village's beautiful young shaman (Mi-wook), Woo-ryong also sets in motion a chain of events that lead to the downfall of all concerned. (We learn toward the end of the movie that there is a very specific reason why this movie is titled "The Piper." The swing itself becomes a very important symbol and plot device at that point as well.)

    The figures here are therefore in part the stock-and-trade of folklore and allegory: the needful outsider, the wealthy village elder, the magician, the faithful son vs. the jealous son, the beautiful princess, etc. And the theme, for example, of (potential) intermarriage between clans destroying all concerned is a well-worn path in human story-telling. But The Piper is also properly historical and philosophical in its premises.

    Historically, the movie is set at the very end of the Korean War. This is of great importance to the "moral economy" of the story: The villagers are very concerned about avoiding contact with communist sympathizers and spies. Thus it is through the (eventual) accusation that Woo-ryong is such a spy that the moral characters of both the Chief, the shaman and other villagers are revealed. (The socialization of accusation and criminal process in Korea, China and Southeast Asia in the 1930-1980 period is the stuff of professional history texts.)

    It also matters because, in a sociological sense, this is a community where people are always "partial" because of the war: Everyone we meet in The Piper is, in a literal sense of the world, a refugee of the war and is further missing someone significant in their life. For example, Woo-ryong and the Chief are similarly situated to the extent that they are both fathers without wives/partners. They are both the (remaining) "heads" of social unit (a family / a village) that is faced with existential ruin. But it is moral character that takes each man in very different directions until the very end of the movie.

    As far as we know, neither the Chief or Woo-ryong have done anything to create the condition in which he finds himself. Each is a refugee of the Korean War. But character does become destiny. We learn Woo-ryong is impractically trusting; naive, if you will. For example, of great importance to the movie is the fact that the "mission" here was undertaken because of something written in English by a "Yankee" doctor on a piece of paper for (the non-English reading) Woo-ryong. But once we (the audience) read what it actually says, we realize that Woo-ryong and Young-nam were, in a sense, doomed from even before they reach the village. In fact, even had they never encountered the village, the outcome would likely have been the same.

    In addition to Woo-ryong's naivety (which is noticed by the Chief), we also learn that the son, Young-nam, is impulsive and prone to act improperly (if mostly innocently, due to his age). But the Chief also notices this too; and it is his use of this knowledge on two separate occasions against both Woo-ryong and Young-nam that show us that the Chief is a studious, cynical man who can be intentionally immoral in his designs. However, by so acting, he ends up turning the man-of-good-heart into a monster. This is where folklore enters history.

    In the end, I take the point of The Piper to be based upon two premises: First, that there are true "victims" of history; persons who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in horrible circumstances and are needful of the aid of others; but that, second, history's victims, in their need, all-too often fall prey to both their own personal foibles, but also the rapacious designs of others. The point, however, is that this sets in motion a cycle of horrors that, in modern times, can never achieve equilibrium because no modern society can forever suppress the evidence of what "really" happened.

    Indeed, the reason the village had the rat problem in the first place is the real (though not always obvious) horror in The Piper. This is the Western or Nietzschean element to the movie: That the village only appears to be an unchanging, conservative community that somehow has escaped the vicissitudes of time. It is actually a monstrous, modern creation; and the Chief is merely a modern entrepreneur at its head. From a cinematic perspective, then, the ending sequence of The Piper might remind viewers of the closing sequences of Vertigo, Egger's The Lighthouse, or Aster's Hereditary. However, where those films have a much more interior, intellectual perspective, The Piper's concern is more obviously global and moral: "This, humanity must address; or no further will humanity go."