Many Americans don't realize that Korea is not all Buddhist. A large proportion of South Koreans belong to vairous home-grown religions that combine Christianity and folk beliefs. So I was interested in a shaman-based Korean paranormal series, The Guest.
Besides, it was advertised with this image. Looks like a gay couple.
Scene 1: "The Guest comes from the eastern see, and it possessess man." Establishing shots of a beach crowded with happy vacationers. Middle Aged Woman is trying to pass out fliers that say "Come get some hoe," but she is ignored. Suddenly she is possessed by The Guest, and attacks a group of teenagers with the butcher knife she just happened to be carrying.
Scene 2: Twenty years ago. A group of people in white robes are preparing for a ritual, but Hwa-pyung, a little boy, prefers to watch tv instead. He's afraid to come outside because there's a ghost out there -- a bald woman with a bloody mouth -- screaming at him.
Dad yells at him. Mom acknowledges that he can't help seeing dead people, but advises that he should pretend not to, so he will fit in with the communal-oriented society.
Scene 3: A colorful procession down a mountain, banging cymbals and carrying banners. A villager named Jong-Jin explains that the ritual is technically meant to ask the gods for good fishing, but it really has an ulterior motive: it is to keep away the evil spirit Park il-do, who possesses people and turns them into killers.
Scene 4: We actually see the ritual, Byeolsin-Gut: everyone chants and sways, the Shaman dances, and an offering is placed on a boat and cast off. Suddenly Jong-Jin is pulled underwater by an unseen force.
Later that night, Jong-Jin starts stabbing people, and then blinds himself. Hwa=pyung sees him and collapses.
Scene 6: Thinking that Hwa-pyung has been possessed, the villagers perform the Nullim-Gut, a ritual to "suppress spirits and their powers." The Shaman dances, the people sway and clap. But something goes wrong: the Shaman collapses in a pool of blood. "He's too powerful! You have to kill him!"
So, when is Hwa-pyung going to age into a hot adult?
Scene 7: A bus stops at a deserted field, and two Catholic priests get out to examine Hwa-pyung. Old Priests states that he's not possessed; maybe it's child abuse. Young Priest (Choi Sa-hyung) gives Hwa-pyung his number, and invites him to come over if he wants to talk about anything. Hwa=pyung pulls him close and whispers something in his ear.
Oh, boy, when Hwa-pyun grows up, he and Young Priest will live together and solve paranormal mysteries and be boyfriends.
Scene 8: Young Priest is shaken by the experience. He goes home and tells his parents, "For the first time, I am confident in my faith."
Scene 9: Dad comes into Hwa-pyung's bedroom and tries to kill him. Could we revisit that child abuse explanation? Mom restrains him, and Hwa-pyung runs from the house. He looks at Young Priest's address.
Meanwhile Young Priest has just finished killing his parents. Yoon, apparently his little brother, is locked in the bedroom. Young Priest breaks the door down.
Scene 10: Hwa-pyung is staring at Young Priest's house.. A woman and her young son stop to see if he needs help, and he tells her "Down there!" So she goes down to the house and knocks. (Or maybe call the police?)
Scene 11: Guess what? She's a police officer. When Young Priest answers the door, she knows immediately that something is wrong. (What tipped you off? The glazed zombie eyes, or the blood on his clerical collar?). So she talks her way inside, and finds a room full of dead parents, and Little Brother hiding under the bed.
The first rule of being in a house with a deranged killer -- don't turn your back. Young Priest attacks, they fight. Police Officer is killed, but Yoon escapes, and runs out to the car.
So now there are three little boys standing in the road outside the Murder House. Fortunately, Police Officer called for backup, so they are all saved.
Oh, boy, they'll all grow up together and investigate paranormal mysteries and become boyfriends!
Scene 12: Finally we get to modern-day Sangyong, Korea, where the grown-up Hwa-pyung (I assume)is driving a cab. He picks up a couple, and notices that the young woman is dazed and resistant: "That's not your girlfriend, is it? Be careful -- her brother's a cop. Besides, you're married" He explains that he has psychic powers.
The guy flees. Hwa-pyung takes the dazed girl home. Darn, now they'll start dating and...
She's upset because she was actually trying to seduce the guy, not the other way around. Huh?
Scene 13: Young Priest walking through an alley. Why is he still young, after 20 years? He accosts a homeless guy: "You're not the one I'm looking for."
Scene 14: Hwa-pyung knocks on a door. Middle-aged, effeminate shaman Yuk-gwan answers: "Your eyes are full of lust. You'll be chasing women until you're old."
He barges in, helps himself to some noodles, and asks "Heard anything about possessed people?"
No, and none of the other shamans have, either. Or the Catholic priests or Buddhist monks.
Scene 15: Hwa-pyung goes home to a room plastered with newspaper articles about possessed people killing their families. He lights a candle on the altar to his dead mother and prays to her: "I promise I'll get him (Young Priest)."
Wait -- Hwa-pyung's mother wasn't killed by Young Priest. He killed Police Officer and his own mother. Which of the three boys by the side of the road is this?
Scene 16: Hwa-pyung sees a body in an aquaduct, and asks a passerby to call the police. Two officers investigate. Suddenly they see a young woman, Kang Gil-young, parked nearby, and curse: "Goodness! What's she doing here?" She's under disciplinary review for beating up a suspect, and not supposed to be investigating cases.
Ok, I get it. One of the boys by the side of the road was actually a girl, who has grown up to be a tough, plays-by-her-own-rules detective. That leaves Yoon, Young Priest's brother, unaccounted-for.
Scene 17: Young Detective interviews employees at the cleaning business the victim owned. There was an incident a couple of months ago: an independent contractor was "slightly injured," and blamed the boss. Aha, a suspect!
Scene 18: Hwa-pyung investigates, too. The contractor is in a wheelchair, and can barely speak. Quite an accident! He shows him a picture of Young Priest, and the poor guy goes beserk!
Scene 19: Young Detective interrogates Hwa-pyung. Why was he at the aquaduct, and then at the contractor's house? Hwa-pyung comes clean about his psychic powers. She doesn't believe him.
Oh, no, they're going to work on cases together and fall in lo-oo-ve. Heterosexism triumphant. And where's Yoon, Young Priest's little brother? The actor gets top billing on IMDB.
Scene 20: The Independent Contractor has mysterious scars on his hands and says "Let's all die." Then he levitates and kills his wife. At the police station, Hwa-pyung has a vision of the murder.
He rushes to the house. Young Detective is already there. They investigate. The end.
Beefcake: Only in the opening scene.
Other Sights: The Shamanic rituals are very colorful.
Gay Characters: The swishy shaman, definitely. It remains to be seen whether Hwa-pyung buddy bonds with the grown-up Yoon or does the Mulder-Scully routine with the grown-up Detective.
Plot Holes: There's just one demon, not a legion of them. So how can it possess Young Priest and the Independent Contractor at the same time? And why did it possess Hwa-pyung, but then leave him for Young Priest? He was too young to kill people? Psychic powers were too strong?
Starting Too Early: Definitely. It would be a much cleaner, more concise episode if we started with Scene 12, and relegated the opening eleven scenes to a few flashbacks.
My Grade: It will depend on who Hwa-pyung falls in love with.