Asian Horror films are probably chock-full-o the most recognizable clichés around for hardcore horror fans to nit pick. Ask anyone and even the most blasé genre-junkie will tell you that most of the J-Horror set is little more than long-haired girls, sometimes wet, sometimes dry, and blue faced little boys, popping up in hallways and bedrooms or simply just from the side of the films frame. Every appearance custom designed to illicit some sort of jump scare. Has ever a set of cinematic standards been so ripe for satire? Well, if you read the synopsis of THE WIG, you’d think that this was it. Tragically, you’d be wrong.
THE WIG is about a homicidal hairpiece. Yes that’s right, all those raven locks that have been clogging up drains and draped across the faces of dead girls for decades finally have a film of their own. And it’s not a subtle wink to a genre staple, it’s a deadly serious fright film. Perhaps a bit too serious considering the inherent lunacy of a wicked weave!
A bald Soo-Hyun (Chae Min-seo) is recovering from her latest bout of Chemotherapy. She has Leukemia and the prognosis is not good. Her older sister Jihyun (Yu Seon, BLACK HOUSE & UNINVITED) hopes to raise her spirits by getting her a luscious wig. However, the jet-black silken strands that were used to make this wig carry a horrible secret within them. This wig is cursed. But, once she puts on the wig, Soo-Hyun feels so much better, her cancer seems to be in remission and her energy levels are soaring, regrettably so are the terrifying visions she’s having. As the wig begins to take control over her life, Soo-Hyun starts to exhibit behaviors far from her normal persona. Now, time is running out. Will the sisters discover the secret of the wig before it’s kills them all?
THE WIG has a lot of interesting things going for it, if you forget about the fact that the wig is seen, on several occasions, slinking across the floor of it’s own momentum. That is the part that is just plain laughable. It looks like an Eastern Cousin It swimming across a sea of Hardwood. Frankly, it’s almost unforgivable. It’s a damn good thing that THE WIG has some solid plot points to save it. One key point is that, soon after giving Soo-Hyun the wig, Jihyun is in a terrible car crash that severs her vocal cords. The effects shot used in this scene is brutal but virtually bloodless. It’s a great sequence and it adds a layer of drama to the production, as Jihyun can now no longer speak. Gorehounds will also want to keep an eye out for a later hospital sequence that is amongst one of the bloodier moments I’ve recently seen in a Asian Horror film. Still, blood and guts aside, the film’s major subplot involves the sexualization of Soo-Hyun as she—influenced by the wig—makes a big move on her sister’s ex-boyfriend Ki-Seok (Mun Su). It’s this relationship that ultimately drives the film toward its conclusion.
I can’t say that THE WIG really worked. Like so many other Asian Horror films, the plot is convoluted. The style over substance label affixes itself pretty easily to the first hour of the film. Korean Director Shin-yeon Won fills the first frames with an overwhelming sense of melancholy, perhaps out of the respect the characters have for Soo-Hyun’s condition and prospects. Alas, this choice makes the first 45 minutes of the film painfully boring. Later, when Soo-Hyun arrives at Ki-Seok’s house, soaking wet from the pouring rain, the film seems to kick into a manic gear and the plot starts spilling out all over the place. This moment actually saves the film from being a total loss because; the film finally reveals the big twist. A twist that I can’t say I’ve ever seen in an Asian Horror film. A controversial one that is not only shocking because it’s seems so unexpected, but because Ki-Seok’s behavior almost foreshadows it. It might seem to some, a cheap way to connect all of the characters to the wig, but it’s so startling that it actually works in spite of itself. Sorry to say, after that revelation, the ending is also problematic, in that the film feels like it’s over at least twice before the credits actually roll.
It’d be hard to unequivocally recommend THE WIG. The film requires a lot of commitment on the part of the viewer. It demands that you pay enough attention at the beginning to establish the character relationships while also forcing you to ignore the languid pacing and strange dreamlike location changes. But, if you can make it that far—and with some semblance of lucidity about the storyline—the payoff is worth it, because as strange as it is, you might not have seen anything quite like it before.