THE FOX FAMILY (2006)
Korean folktale usually ripe for horror is given an oddball musical comedy makeover as a family of foxes hunt human victims
In revisiting the story of the kumiho, or gumiho, a shapeshifting fox that can live for 1,000 years, we are given the song, dance and comedy version of a story used in prior horror films such as Thousand Years Old Fox (1969) and The Fox with Nine Tails (1994).
Completing what could be termed ‘The Evil Fox Trilogy’, we meet a family that must consume a human liver each during a once-in-a-millennium lunar eclipse to become full-time humans.
Disguised as humans themselves, they move from their mountain home and head towards the city to establish a suitable human trap in the form of a circus.
With the mother having passed away, the family father (Joo Hyun) is trying to oversee this mission, with his slow-witted son (Ha Jung-woo, The Handmaiden), the beautiful femme fatale older daughter (Park Si-yeon) and fierce younger daughter (Ko Joo-yeon). For fans of The Handmaiden, you will see Ha Jung-woo in a very different light.
While it appears they have snared their first victim in conman Gi-dong (Park Jun-gyu), he managed to persuade the murderous family that he would be better placed helping them lure further victims.
Matters are complicated when murders in the city draw the attention of a local police detective (Park Chul-min) who decides to keep an eye on this bizarre family new to the city.
The film leans more on comedy than music, providing a sporadic selection of musical numbers and focuses on the family’s wild antics instead. Though the songs themselves are serviceability funny in their own right.
There are indeed flashes of horror and gore befitting the folktale origins of the story, but it is difficult to take the family seriously on the scare front after so many slapstick antics.
The film very broadly falls into a category of light entertainment, where you are very much aware that you are not watching a profound piece of work. However, you are still watching it.
There is one superb early scene where the older daughter, focused on using her beauty to land a human victim, is trying her best seductive dancing on a train to attract a man sat down wearing sunglasses. He is unmoved before he rises, unfolds his walking cane for the blind and leaves. That’s the plot hole in using your looks – not everyone can see them.
To say the film is hammy would be an understatement and the circus setting means the overacting has extra cause for existence. But it is hard not to enjoy the film, all the same.
A charm runs through it that makes it so affable you willingly let slip the cheesy nature of the set-ups and delivery.
There was an inevitability to the notion that the Korean folktale of the kumiho was going to get a comedy incarnation at some point. The Fox Family is enjoyable for how relentless bizarre and oddball it then manages to be.