NEW (Next Entertainment World) and Warner Bros. Korea are reportedly moving forward with the since long-planned sequel to Park Hoon-jung’s 2018 sci-fi action horror thriller, The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion. Production is expected to commence in December according to several sources online, including an exclusive report at Star News which also hint at the return of actresses Kim Da-mi (JTBC drama, Itaewon Class) and Jo Min-su (Pieta).
SBS drama While You Were Sleeping star Lee Jong-suk is also expected to take an early leave from his substitute compulsory military service to join the sequel this since declining the lead male role back in 2017; The move hails a reunion for Lee who previously starred in Park’s crime thriller, V.I.P.. The actor, whose screen credits also partly include Han Jae-Rim’s The Face Reader and Jo Yong-sun’s No Breathing, began his military service last March.
Circling the backdrop of human atrocity in the underbelly of a black site lab where children are experimented on and butchered, the first installment of The Witch franchise centers on Kim in the role of a young girl who takes on the name, Ja-yoon, following her harrowing escape from the facility ten years earlier. Now in her teens and in the midst of auditioning as a reality show contestant, Ja-yoon is forced to contend with a worsening condition stemming from her mostly dormant abilities, whilst fending off squads of armed men and a team of equally precocious teenagers seemingly bent on pulling Ja-yoon back into the world she ran from so long ago.
Well Go USA stood as one of the film’s top contenders for North American distribution, rolling out the film on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital earlier this year, as well as on Netflix. Story details for the sequel are unknown, while it is also said that Park is aiming to include a new character addition to the franchise in the same vein as Kim.
The brilliance of this film is in the complete 180 it turns into well within the second half, handing us a protagonist who is clearly much more than meets the eye. Ja-yoon’s complexity is woven solidly into her relationships with her adopted parents and high school best friend, in a story altogether that proves its world-building capability, in addition to its superb action direction complete with a steady balance of frenetic cinematography and vivid fight choreography plush with violence and gore to satify viewers.
It also helps that the film did just as well at the box office as reports have recorded since releasing that summer, in addition to the film’s subsequent wins and nominations for the film in its festival circulation, among which have garnered nominally for Kim as a newly-minted leading lady. The film’s action and stunt unit led by Park Jeong-ryul (Inside Men, Luck-Key) and Kim Jung-min (The Vanished), earned their nomination for the Technical Award in stunts at the 39th Blue Dragon Film Awards.
Production on the sequel would have moved forward in August with plans to expand on the story for a more global scope. A few factors hampered its progress however, with the Coronavirus pandemic stifling a lot of planned productions this year – The Witch sequel being one of them. In September at the time, Warner Bros. halted its investment and production in local films in South Korea and consolidated its operations, after completing its film slate.
Park also directed cinema favorites such as 2013 crime thriller New World with Hwang Jung-min and Lee Jung-jae, and 2015 survival thriller The Tiger with Choi Min-sik. His latest return to neo-noir crime thrills, Night In Paradise starring Um Tae-goo, currently awaits a local release date following its Out Of Completion this year for the 77th La Biennale di Venezia.