The Piper

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User Ratings: 90

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Movie Info

Shortly after the Korean War, a man and his son, Woo-ryong and Young-nam, arrive in an isolated mountain village looking for work in order to make enough money to continue their journey to Seoul. Against the chief's better judgement, Woo-ryong is allowed to do odd jobs and soon realizes the village suffers a major rat infestation. Like a mid-century Pied Piper, he makes a deal with the chief to rid the town of the rats but when the time comes to collect his fee and leave, the chief double crosses the father and son. Vowing a revenge, he lures the rats back, fulfilling an old prophesy that brings horror to the village. (C) CJ

Cast

Lee Joon
as Nam-soo
Lee Sung-min
as Village Head
Ryu Seung-ryong
as The father / Wandering musician
Chris Hackney
as Nam-soo (voice) (as Christopher Hackney)

Critic Reviews for The Piper

All Critics (2) | Fresh (2)

Audience Reviews for The Piper

  • Jul 10, 2018
    This is for RottenTomatoes, since I can't put a warning on the review like on Letterboxd, but this review has MAJOR SPOILERS, so don't read this if you don't want it to be spoiled. Does the Pied Piper of Hamelin count as a fairy tale? Or is it more a legend and/or folklore? Its Wikipedia entry lists as a legend, so let's go with that. But I wanna talk about fairy tales for a moment, since this legend has had its own Brothers Grimm adaptation. I believed I mentioned this in my Tale of Tales review, a GREAT movie, but Disney has absolutely ruined fairy tales in my opinion. Disney, basically, built its empire on adapting fairy tales and creating marketable princesses around them. Most of these fairy tales were in the public domain but Disney, selfishly, bought the rights. Because, of course, Disney wants to create a global monopoly. That's neither here nor there, the point is that Disney owning all of these properties means that, when they're adapted into modern animated (or live-action) films, they have that homogenized and easily identifiable Disney tone. That, to me, hampers creativity because you're not exploring the fairy tales' truly dark themes Everything has to have the Disney seal. And, to me, it's probably a good thing they don't own the rights to this character either. Though, to be fair, how do you make this story into a kid-friendly film? The Pied Piper, basically, helps this town get rid of a rat infestation with his magic pipe. When they refuse to pay him for his services, he leads the kids the kids away using the very thing he used to lead the rats away. That's not exactly family-friendly, to be fair. So it's good that Disney haven't got their greedy hands on this either. Because, if they had, we wouldn't have had this little gem of a movie on our hands. One thing before we get going with the review, the poster for this movie on Letterboxd (the one on RottenTomatoes is better) makes this movie look like it's gonna be a non-stop horror fest. The lead character certainly ends up looking like he does in the poster, but it's, like, the last 15 minutes of the film. The trailer on Amazon is also misleading due to this very reason. Makes it look like more of a horror movie than it actually is. And, because of that, some people are gonna be 'disappointed' because the movie isn't what they thought it was gonna be. Woo-ryong is journeying with his son, Young-nam, to Seoul in order to get him treatment for his tuberculosis. Woo-ryong is given this note by this American doctor which he, sadly, thinks is directions to where he needs to take his son. The note, essentially, says to fuck off in kinder words. Woo-ryong is tired and decides to stop at this remote village, where he asks for some hospitality from the village chief in order for him and his son to rest. The chief complies on the condition that they leave the next day. Of course, they don't. Woo-ryong starts ingratiating himself into the village and he finds out that there's a rat infestation plaguing the town. The chief's son has tried everything to get rid of the rats and nothing has worked. So, in desperation, the rest of the village turns to Woo-ryong and ask him to get rid of the rats. He agrees as long as he gets paid the price of a pig in order to use it for his son's treatment in Seoul. The thing about this movie is that nothing happens quickly. Woo-ryong starts to build friendships in the village even before getting rid of the rats with his mixture of powder leading from every direction the rats may come from and smoke that would draw them out to begin with. This, perhaps, may lead to some people saying that nothing really happens and I wouldn't agree with that. Because, to me, the eventual betrayal means so much more if Woo-ryong has actually become close to the people of this village. Especially his friendship with this guy who calls him big brother. And, of course, his budding romance with Mi-sook. All of these relationships make the eventual betrayal that much more effective. It wouldn't mean anything if they rushed to Woo-ryong getting rid of the rats, immediately getting betrayed and him then picking off the villagers one by one with the help of his 'rats'. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. So Woo-ryong succeeds in getting rid of the rats. Prior to this point, however, hints are dropped that this quaint remote village is anything but. It's implied that the chief and the rest of the villagers are hiding some sort of horrific crime(s), which led to them having the, relatively, comfortable life they have now. I will admit that these parts of the movie are a little confusing only because you have no idea what they're talking about and, desperately, you want to find out what is that this village and its chief are hiding. I don't know why, for some odd reason, I thought the chief wanted the rats to stay in the village. I guess, to an extent, he does as it allows him to keep the villagers somewhat under control. Partly, the narrative is also about this small man who, upon being given some semblance of power, refuses to let control of his kingdom, however small, go. And Woo-ryong, and his son to a lesser extent, are threatening that power. They're also threatening, through Woo-ryong (and his son) growing closer to Mi-sook, to expose the truth about what the people in the village did in order to get to where they are. Here's the thing about this movie, though, is that you can see them almost framing the entire thing as a fantasy-esque film, where 'unrealistic' things happen, but everything that happens can be explained logically using the film's own events as explanations. There's this prophecy that the shaman the town set on fire says. That 'on a day with no sun and a night with no moon' they will all die in a single day. The fact that there was no moon and sun is explained by the fact that Woo-ryong, using the smoke he used to get rid of the rates, is using it again to lure the rats back into town after...something happens. The smoke is such that it ends up covering the sun and moon. So, when Woo-ryong uses the pipe to lead the rats back into the village, it's not that his pipe is magical, it's the smoke. The pipe itself, and the powder he puts on his face along with the blood across his eyes, is all part of the show. I suppose there's one unexplained moment when, Mi-sook, after having betrayed Woo-ryong and his son after the chief convinces the entire village that they're commie spies in order to get them on his side, somehow, being stabbed with some sort of rod and in a shamanic trance, repeating the words that the previous shaman said who knows how long ago. That was unexplained, but the way I see it, I feel it's more Mi-sook's guilt over everything that has happened. They practically killed the lepers, whom they begged to take them in even though they, in turn, had made fun of their condition prior to this, by shoving them into this cave with the shaman and, basically, starving them to death. This shaman, I believe, had to resort to cannibalism to keep herself alive and, basically, after all of this happened and the shaman prophesied their end, they then shoved the shaman into the cave and set her ablaze. If Mi-sook was witness to all of this, hell, I'd feel guilty as shit too. And that's not to mention her betrayal of Woo-ryong and his son, people who only tried to help the village, I'd feel guilty as fuck too. So that could be an explanation. As far as I what I thought about this movie is concerned, if you can't see the rating for some reason, I thought this was a really cool and deliciously dark movie. Prior to the betrayal, I felt that the movie was slowly paced, but in hindsight, it was building this scenario where the village is slowly turned against Woo-ryong due to baseless accusations by the village chief. Accusations that when, scrutinized, don't hold up by any measure. So, now, I understand why the film was paced as such. It was planting the seeds to lead up to this. Again, the betrayal doesn't mean as much is Woo-ryong and his son haven't been fully embraced by the village. It just doesn't. Plus, this also gives time for Woo-ryong's relationship with his son to develop. Since a major moment in the film is what forces Woo-ryong to do what he did with the village. And, thankfully, that relationship between father and son doesn't feel forced or fake. And that, to me, is in large part due to the excellent performance by Ryu Seung-ryong. He draws you into his character and he makes you feel that sense of loss and desperation at what happens. It should be obvious, but I'm still not spoiling it. The last 15 minutes of the film itself are tremendous, when the rats come and devour the entire village. It's so oddly satisfying, because all of these assholes deserved what was coming to them. So, in turn, it also works as a revenge thriller which, as I've mentioned in other reviews, South Korea has plenty of. The actual ending, with Woo-ryong leading the children to the cave that he trapped the rats in and, in turn, trapping the children is also deliciously dark. It's definitely in keeping with the original legend but, honestly, I was not expecting the film to do this in the slightest. It's just something that's gonna irrevocably change the character and it gives you something to think about after the movie ends. How justified he was in his revenge of the village, but how he's not justified in this. It might actually be the reason I'm giving this four stars. Though, to be fair, looking back on this, I feel like this is a great movie from beginning to end. Because, in my opinion, everything in this movies serves a purpose. Nothing is wasted and it's all leading to what Woo-ryong is forced to do at the end. It's focused on where it wants to go and how it gets there. The performances, all around, are great and the story goes to some places you might not expect it to go. So all of those things, in my opinion, adds up to a great movie. One that's definitely very much a hidden gem and one that, in my opinion, should be seen by as many people as possible. I really can't praise this movie enough. Easy recommendation.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer

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