REVIEW: Kim Hong Sun’s METAMORPHOSIS uses possession as an interesting take on how unspoken tensions can destroy from within.


A unique spin on The Exorcist, Metamorphosis follows a priest whose faith is broken after a deadly exorcism and the shapechanging demon that begins to haunt him and his family.

The book with possession films largely begins and ends with William Friedkin’s 1973 horror classic The Exorcist, where the possession of a young girl and the arduous exorcism to free her from the devil’s grasp emboldens the faith of a once broken priest into finding a fresh font of belief for his once flagging faith in God upon confronting this evil. From the film’s cold open, a keen viewer will be aware that Kim Hong Sun’s METAMORPHOSIS is largely using The Exorcist as its floor plan. But to dismiss it as a would-be Exorcist rip-off is to do the film a disservice, as METAMORPHOSIS finds some unique scares and angles along with the regional flavor of South Korea to make the film worth a visit.

METAMORPHOSIS follows Joong-Su (Sung-Woo Bae), a priest in the mold of Father Karras, who is looking to leave the priesthood following the wake of a deadly exorcism he presided over from which he still bears the scars, both physical and spiritual. As he struggles with how to move forward, his brother Gang-Goo (Dong-il Sung) and his family move into a new home, one where the demon that faced Joong-Su finds an abandoned home to set up shop in to terrorize Joong-Su’s family and destroy his family from within. The demon infiltrates Gang-Goo’s household and begins to assume the form of his wife Myung Joo (Young-nam Jang), his daughters Sun-Woo (Hye-Jun Kim) and Hyun-Joo (Yi-Hyun Cho), creating dissension and strife within the family so that simmering resentments and guilt bubble to the surface and they become their own worst enemy. Can Joong-Su help his family and renew his faith in himself and God or will the demon destroy his family and ultimately Joong-Su himself.

Sung-Woo Bae is excellent as Joong-Su, conveying pathos and strength throughout the film and his range really brings the character to life. Likewise, Yi-Hyun Cho’s performance as the younger daughter Hyun-Joo feels real, as does her terror at what she thinks the demon is doing to her in the guise of a close family member. Hye-Jun Kim’s Sun-Woo is very compelling as the film’s female lead essentially and her performance both as herself but notably as one of the demon’s manifestations is excellent and compelling. Dong-Il Sung and Young-name Jang are also really adept at playing the id version of their characters as manifested by this evil force and Sung especially channels Nicholson’s Jack Torrance at many times. The film’s practical makeup effects are excellent, as is the gory production design, both of which are accented by CGI effects that are a bit too reminiscent of the possession effects of the CW show Supernatural. But its the performances that ultimately make the film engaging. Metamorphosis is a character study on guilt and regret and how those can be demons that rot the foundation within. The homage to the Exorcist is heavy and those who have seen the film will find some beats predictable, but overall the film keeps you on edge as to what will happen next.

Kim Hong-Sun crafts an engaging genre piece with compelling performances throughout and some eerie setpieces to match in METAMORPHOSIS, which debuts exclusively on Shudder on Thursday, July 2nd.