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.
Review by alain-kapel5