Korean Movie Review – Howling (하울링)

Directed by Yoo Ha

Crime/Drama

114 minutes

One of the biggest hits of 2012 was the No. 1 box-office smash “Howling,” directed by Yoo Ha and starring Song Kang-ho, the star of cult Korean classics such as “The Host” (2006), “Joint Security Area” (2000) and “Thirst” (2009). The movie is based on the 1996 award-winning Japanese novel “The Hunter” and follows a veteran detective and a young female rookie as they hunt a killer who may or may not be human. With a title like “Howling,” was the film to be a supernatural twist on the buddy cop genre? I was looking forward to finding out.

The movie follows Detective Jo Sang-gil (Song Kang-ho) as he investigates the somewhat curious case of a man who sets fire to himself in his car. In the midst of the investigation, we get a glimpse of Sang-gil’s less-than-perfect life: Not only do his children hate him, but he has been passed over for a promotion at work despite working on the force for many years. Sang-gil is further frustrated when he is forced to partner up with a novice detective, Eun-young, as a favor to his friend and boss.

Several factors make this case an interesting prospect for Sang-gil. First are the drugs found in the victim’s bloodstream. Second is the detonator found in the victim’s belt, indicating that the fire was not suicide as originally suspected. And finally, there is a bite mark found on the dead man’s body, which is perhaps the most confusing detail of all. Realizing that this is no ordinary case, Sang-gil vows to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth in an attempt to finally get the promotion he feels he deserves.

“Howling” is a decent enough movie that will most likely appeal to fans of Song Kang-ho. While watchable, it definitely has its flaws, which many might say is because the film never seems to know what genre it wants to be. It is neither a generic “CSI” cop movie, nor is it a supernatural thriller. I usually can’t stand this in a film, but this didn’t actually bother me. Instead, I was frustrated with how early the film revealed its ultimate direction. I was rather enjoying the ride and wondering what would happen as the cops chased down each of the leads, all while trying to decide what the hell was going on with mysterious murders and a killer wolf on the prowl.

Depending on what type of movie you were hoping to see, you may well lose interest half way through it. I know I did.

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Categories: Reviews

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One Comment on “Korean Movie Review – Howling (하울링)”

  1. September 6, 2014 at 3:23 am #

    Nice review! I agree with pretty much every word. Song Kang-ho is a tremendous actor who makes any movie worth watching, but the dog was really the star of this one. I’m going to watch it again just so that I can give it a review that does justice to its canine star. Personally I like the way it moves between genres, but that’s kind of a thing with me – I’ve watched a lot of Korean movies recently, and one of the things I admire the most is the way they use elements from every genre without attaching themselves to one in particular. Movies like “Save the Green Planet”, “Secret Reunion”, and “Windstruck” really hit the spot because they’re not married to one genre in particular. “Haeundae” grabs you by the balls because it spends so much time as a rom-com before the tragedy hits, et cetera.

    Anyway, nice review. Love it. Keep flying that flag.

    -Tiger-

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