The Soul Guardians Review
The Soul Guardians often comes across as having been edited by either a child or a madman. Indeed, it may even have been written by one such is its eccentric blend of cop thriller, science fiction, horror and action movie. A plot synopsis really won’t suffice, especially with regards to the opening half hour. Rather we pick up on tiny, barely snatched particles of information that may or may not be as they seem. From what I can gather The Soul Guardians would appear to concern Satanists, zombies, a mutant pregnancy, ghosts, premonitions (or are they flashbacks – or perhaps dream sequences?), a pre-Zhang Yimou flying dagger and the five sole survivors of a mass suicide pact. Of course, I can’t really be certain of any of this given that coherency doesn’t appear to be one of the filmmakers’ fortes, but then I’m certainly intrigued.
Indeed the amount of speculation required, not to mention the sheer oddness and erratic nature of the plotting, will no doubt keep the viewer continually interested. There is, perhaps, the temptation to simply chuckle your way through its brisk running time, but then I’d much rather be faced with bemusement as opposed to boredom. Compare The Soul Guardians to those US millennial angst movies to which it bears a passing resemblance (End of Days and the rest) and it’s by the far more entertaining offering.
That said, if taken scene for scene and set piece for set piece, this isn’t exactly a work which offers anything new. Indeed, we’ve seen much of this before – and the same is also true of the film’s visual stylings – yet its refusal to settle down into a conventional narrative means that things never once become predictable. Whereas, ordinarily, the various pieces would fall into place within seconds of the opening titles, here we only make the various plot connections at intermittent points. And even then things are abundantly clear.
As such I honestly doubt that The Soul Guardians will prove quite as pleasurable on its second or third viewing. Its mystery is its novelty and without the film risks flirting with the mundane given the manner in which it recycles so many ideas from elsewhere (at times I was reminded of everything from The Golden Child to The Terminator). But then maybe you should only watch it the once – it’s a mess, certainly, though The Soul Guardians may still be one for the discerning renter.
At first The Soul Guardians looks to have a decent enough transfer – anamorphically enhanced, a clean print – but soon enough its various problems become ever more apparent. Edge enhancement blights the image throughout, whilst the darker scenes (i.e. the majority of the film) prove a little too murky. Indeed, the clarity often wavers, from the extremely good to the extremely soft. Add to this some ghosting and we have a definite case of an NTSC to PAL transfer. All in all, it’s watchable but no doubt a disappointment.
As for the soundtrack, Tai Seng UK offer up four choices. We have the original Korean in either a DD2.0 or DD5.1 forms, an English dub in DD5.1 or a stereo Cantonese dub. I can’t really comment on the last of those, though the English dub is of the American variety and therefore to be avoided which leaves the Korean offerings. In both cases these are technically sound with the 5.1 mix understandably proving the more expansive of the two. There is the background hiss on occasion, but otherwise both offer a decent enough clarity.
The key special feature is the 12-minute ‘making of’ featurette. To be honest, the title isn’t strictly true as this piece actually consists solely of an interview with director Park Kwang-Chun, but then it does prove engaging enough. Offer this brief time he touches on the problems of adapting a book, the Korean market forces with regards to science fiction cinema and, perhaps unsurprisingly, concentrates a great deal on the film’s technical aspects. Rounding off the extras package we also a find a number of cross-promotional trailers for other Tai Seng UK releases.
Note that, unlike the main feature, the interview with Park comes with burnt-in English subtitles.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:30:28