Writer-director Kang Park makes his feature-length debut with the South Korean horror film Seire. The movie revolves around the superstitious belief of saam-chil-il, which means that for 21 days after the birth of a baby, the parents and their home must be very protective. Ropes are put up around the perimeter of the house, visitors are not allowed, certain foods are banned, and breaking any of the taboos can spell doom for the baby or the parents.
Woo-jin (Seo Hyun-woo) does not buy into any of that, though. However, his wife, Hae-mi (Sim Eun-woo), grew up with a very superstitious-believing mom and holds these ideas close. So Woo-jin tries his best to keep them as well, as they just had little I-su. However, he learns that his ex died and decides to attend the funeral. It goes without saying that Woo-jin did not tell Hae-mi about his decision. Upon returning from the funeral, Woo-jin, Hae-mi, and even the innocent baby I-su, are subjected to strange and horrific happenings. Did Woo-jin break the forbidden taboos and unleash something awful upon his family? Or is there a logical explanation for these unfortunately timed events?
“…Woo-jin, Hae-mi, and even the innocent baby I-su, are subjected to strange and horrific happenings.”
Seire is gripping from start to finish, with Park establishing an oppressive atmosphere from the beginning. The way the lighting captures who’s doing what adds a layer of unreality to everything that heightens the tension. The dialogue is rather exposition heavy, but the moody direction makes up for that. Plus, how the story uses the taboos to springboard into exploring regret and what-ifs is unexpectedly original.
The cast is perfect. Hyun-woo comes off as bland initially but slowly deconstructs his everyman persona to find nuance behind a man leaving with deep regret. Eun-woo is perfect as Hae-mi. She sells the ending with such delicious glee it is delightful. The supporting cast is excellent as well.
As with most South Korean genre offerings, Seire is measuredly pace and more about atmosphere. This does mean gorehounds who only want blood and guts in their horror flicks will be disappointed. But those who don’t mind a slow burn to build tension that is only periodically punctured by a big moment will be very invested here. The cast is great, and the ending is surprising yet makes perfect sense.
For more information about Seire, visit its Film Movement page.