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Dawn OOC

Netflix Review: Howling

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I choose to review the 2012 Korean thriller Howling because it strongly reminded me of WoDA. It’s not a horror movie, though I thought it was because of the teaser on Netflix: “Blinded by the chance to earn a promotion, detective Sang-gil investigates a murder case without reporting to his superiors, brushing off his new partner's suggestion that a bite mark on the victim means something strange is afoot.”

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Based on that alone, I assumed it was a Korean werewolf show. I was jazzed and excited about it for that reason; I figured that Korea would have a new take on the myth. It was not a werewolf show, as I finally figured out about two-thirds of the way in. It was still interesting and I watched to conclusion.

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Howling’s main draw for me was the characters; mainly the interaction between the two partnered detectives. Det. Jo Sang-gil is old and somewhat bitter after being passed over for promotion too many times. This is his main drive for much of the show, and the reason that he makes some truly awful mistakes that hamper the investigation. He’s not a really nice person but he’s also somewhat sympathetic. You get the sense that he’s an angry man who lashes out at the world and is always caught off guard when it lashes back. It shouldn’t make him endearing, but he does change over the course of the movie into a (mostly) better person.

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On the other end is newly-minted Det. Cha Eun-young. She’s the member of the team who wants to solve crimes, not earn points or credit. Her drive is a passion for justice; she shows compassion and open-mindedness throughout the film. She’s very much a nice person and she really isn’t ready for the world she’s been thrust into, but she is pivotal; had she not pushed to be damned good at her job, we wouldn’t have had a movie. The flaw I see in her is that she’s too willing to let her partner and her superiors push her around. The moments when you see her stand up for herself are few, but enjoyable because of how much you’ve wanted to see them. She doesn’t really change in the movie which is good.

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These two characters drive much of the film though two more characters come into play that also drive the movie. For spoiler reasons, I won’t talk about them here; they are pivotal to the murder mystery. What I will spoiler on are some triggers in the movie. There is a lot of sexism toward Eun-young – a lot. This is overt and feels realistic; she’s the only female detective in this office and the men react as if being invaded. Even her partner would prefer if she just stays out of his way. She does make some mistakes, but she mostly pays for Sang-gil’s errors in a miscarriage of justice. Again, the moments when she calls them on it are rare but lovely, and her actions toward the end of the film are completely done without the boys’ approval.

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Another spoiler, and one I hesitate to give but is something I’d want to know myself. The movie doesn’t have a strictly happy ending. It has the ending I feel it should have, but not necessarily the one I would have given it. I’m glad I saw it but probably won’t watch it again. The main reason for recommending it here is for the WoDA crowd. It has a world that is as dark and corrupt as WoD, with cops who are self-serving assholes, criminals who commit atrocities, and some incredibly visceral scenes of a dog attacking people. All in all, well worth a watch, if you’re interested in such things.

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