Jeong Jun-ho as General Biharang
Kim Hyo-jin as Jaunbe
Kim Hye-ri as Shilla Queen Chinsong
"Legend of the Evil Lake" is a Korean film directed by Lee Gwan-hun (also directed 'Ghost in Love' in 1998). It's an epic fantasy/period film pitting good against evil, humans against evil spirits. Like most recent Asian productions this film was introduced to international audiences, receiving a warm applause at various film festivals.
The film opens with a moon worshipping ceremony under a thousand year old tree. The ceremony is being conducted by the evil sorcerer Auta. A young virgin bearing the mark of the evil moon god on her forehead is being suspended in the air. As the young girl rises high in the sky, she is struck in the heart by an arrow and dies. This angers Auta. Before Auta can even take action, his group of flowers are surrounded and mercilessly slained by a shower of arrows. Auta manages to survive the assault and discovers that the attack has been led by his long-time enemy, the Emperor of the newly established Kingdom of Shilla. Good and evil cannot coexist so the Emperor of Shilla and Auta immediately battle one another. Using his 'magic' sword the Emperor of Shilla defeats Auta. He plunges the sword into the ground, trapping Auta's evil spirit in the frozen lake below. As long as the sword remains buried in the ground, Auta's spirit will not rise and cause trouble again.
Many years later, 896 AD to be precise, the Kingdom of Shilla is experiencing turbulent times. The peasants have began a revolt in the capitol, barbaric nomads are looking to invade, and on top of that, corrupted court officials are plotting to seize control of the throne for themselves. Amidst the chaos and the troubled times a hero is found. General Biharang (played by Jeong Jun-ho) is charged with the task of quelling the peasant uprising. He leads his men bravely in battle and manages to deliver a crushing blow and eliminate all of the peasants who are looking to rebel. General Biharang is greeted with warm welcome from Shilla's Queen, Chinsong (played by Kim Hye-ri), upon his return to the capital. The Captain of the Imperial Guards, General Bing, and the Prime Minister on the other hand are jealous of his accomplishments. Queen Chinsong acknowledges General Biharang's achievements and victory, but advises him not to get involved with a peasant girl named Jaunbe (played by Kim Hyo-jin). It was very obvious to the various officials that Queen Chinsong loved and cared very much for General Biharang.
But General Biharang does not heed Queen Chinsong's advice. Instead he returns to his master's lodging, which is also Jaunbe's home. General Biharang has fought a long and hard war. So upon returning home, he decides to seek a peaceful life. He acknowledges that he had killed many people to maintain peace in the Kingdom of Shilla. But his master advises him that its his fate. General Biharang then proposes to marry his long-time girlfriend, Jaunbe. When General Bing catches news of the marriage proposal, he immediately informs Queen Chinsong, hoping to drive a wedge between them. General Bing had always been jealous of General Biharang, so would love nothing more than to eliminate him. General Bing urges Queen Chinsong to take action, advising her not to trust a general who refuses the marriage proposals from royal families to marry a peasant girl, whose father was a convicted rebel. But Queen Chinsong does not heed General Bing's advice. General Biharang had been her most loyal servant and had fought many wars to protect the Kingdom of Shilla.
Later rebels assisted by nomads invade the northern part of the Kingdom of Shilla. The Prime Minister urges Queen Chinsong to send General Biharang to lead his forces to crush the invading army. At first Queen Chinsong refuses to do so, realizing that she needed General Biharang's help to control and hold the capitol. But she had no choice when news arrived that the northern districts had been captured by the invading army, and that the governor had been mercilessly murdered. At once General Biharang was summoned to meet privately with Queen Chinsong. There we uncover that they were once lovers about 9 years ago, before Queen Chinsong married the Shilla Emperor. It was obvious that Queen Chinsong still held strong feelings for General Biharang. But it is quite obvious that General Biharang loved Jaunbe only. He vows that he'll remain a loyal servant and do his best to defend the Kingdom of Shilla and its Queen until the very end. With that General Biharang leaves for war along with his Lieutenant Talwi, who he had fought many battles with.
Whilst General Biharang was away to defend and protect his country, General Bing and the Prime Minister worked in collaboration on a plan to drive a wedge between him and Queen Chinsong. They plotted the murder of Jaunbe. General Bing sent two of his Imperial Guards to trick Jaunbe into thinking that General Biharang had been seriously wounded in battle. Without questioning the news, Jaunbe followed the two Imperial Guards into the dark forest near a lake. There the two Imperial Guard revealed their true intentions. Jaunbe was immediately shocked and tried her best to escape as one of the men tried to rape her. She succeeded in running away when she pulled a sword that had been buried deep in the ground to protect herself. As she did so the forest appeared to come alive, with a scream of horror. Jaunbe uses this distraction to escape. But the two Imperial Guards eventually caught up with her at the top of a ridge above the lake. With nowhere to go, Jaunbe decided to jump into the lake. She is then assumed to have drowned.
Meanwhile, General Biharang and Lieutenant Talwi are engaged in a fierce battle against the rebels and nomad invaders. Against all odds they manage to gain victory. General Biharang could sense that something was wrong up seeing the image of Jaunbe amongst the blood that had spurted out from a fallen victim. He and Lieutenant Talwi immediately leave the battle field to return home to Jaunbe's house to investigate. After searching for many hours in the dark forest, General Biharang discovers various items that belong to Jaunbe. It leads him to think that Jaunbe had committed suicide by jumping over the edge of the cliff and into the lake. Desperate to find her body, General Biharang leaps into the lake himself. But he could find no trace of her. Lieutenant Talwi then urges General Biharang to come to his senses. The two men return once more to Jaunbe's home. They are greeted by General Biharang's master upon their return.
General Biharang's master then advises both men that the Kingdom of Shilla is in great danger, and that the evil spirit of Auta is free once more to create havoc. General Biharang also learns that two Imperial Guards had been involved in the murder of Jaunbe. This immediately upsets him. He decides to storm into the palace along with Lieutenant Talwi to demand an explanation from Queen Chinsong. As a result he engages into several battles and oral debates with the Captain of the Imperial Guards, General Bing. Eventually he manages to fight his way through to seek an explanation from Queen Chinsong who denies any involvement in Jaunbe's murder. As they were arguing, Jaunbe, who had been possessed by the evil spirit of Auta, enters the palace. She immediately takes vengeance on the two Imperial Guards they had participated in attempting to rape her and forcing her over the edge of the cliff. Her arrival causes great confusion in the palace. Many Imperial Guards are mercilessly killed in the process as a result. Whilst everyone was attempting to kill Jaunbe and Auta's evil spirit, Biharang sought to save her. He protected her on several occasions, denying his own master from killing Jaunbe and the evil spirit of Auta, for he was certain that he could save and revive her.
Because Jaunbe and the evil sprit of Auta had tried to kill Queen Chinsong, she was most upset upon discovering that General Biharang had rescued her from the palace. She was also deeply in love with General Biharang and wished that Jaunbe had been killed. Blinded by her own greed and passion for General Biharang, Queen Chinsong decides to torture Lieutenant Talwi, who was captured during the skirmish, in an attempt to get him to reveal the whereabouts of General Biharang. But Lieutenant Talwi was very loyal to General Biharang, taking all of the tortures without revealing one word.
Meanwhile, General Biharang and his master worked on a plan to exorcise Auta's evil spirit from Jaunbe's body. The plan was to keep Jaunbe's body away from the moonlight which was due to rise high in the sky, late that the evening. When the moon rises, it was said that even the great Shilla Emperor's magic sword would be useless against Auta's evil spirit. General Biharang stayed inside a concealed room that was protected by scriptures to protect Jaunbe's body. Jaunbe was trying very hard to keep Auta from taking control of her body. She loved General Biharang too much to allow Auta to win. She struggled as a result.
General Biharang's master on the other hand, stayed outside, using the 'magic' sword to defend against Auta's evil spirit. As the moon rose above, the power in the sword weakened. General Biharang's master was severely wounded by evil spirits but despite everything, he had Jaunbe were very much safe. Just when it appeared as if they would succeed and the moon would pass by without incident, Lieutenant Talwi arrived and kicked open the door to the concealed room. The moonlight immediately turned Jaunbe into Auta, to the total dismay of General Biharang. Queen Chinsong had finally convinced Lieutenant Talwi to assist her, by claiming that General Biharang's life was in danger as he was being possessed by evil spirits. So the loyal Lieutenant Talwi immediately set out to save General Biharang and managed to foil their plans.
As the spirit of Auta assumed full control of Jaunbe's body, General Biharang, his master, Lieutenant Talwi, and Queen Chinsong were surrounded by the Prime Minister's and General Bing's men. They had plotted a revolt against the Queen whilst she was away from the palace. In the midst of the chaos, General Biharang defended Queen Chinsong with his life. He battled one on one with General Bing, before mercilessly killing him. Following the death of General Bing, Jaunbe and the evil spirit of Auta returned and attempted to kill all in their path. Realizing that the evil sprit of Auta could not be defeated the various men attempted to flee. The Prime Minister was killed by the evil sprit of Auta when he attempted to escape.
Just when it appeared that no one was going to survive the battle against evil, and that Auta's evil sprit acting through Jaunbe would succeed, General Biharang walked forward to confront Jaunbe. He pleaded with Auta to take possession of his own body and to release Jaunbe from her suffering. Auta's reply was to kill General Biharang but he was saved by Lieutenant Talwi who jumped in front of the evil spirit. Before dying Lieutenant Talwi pleads with General Biharang to take decisive action to kill Jaunbe, stating that she was no longer the person whom he loved, and was possessed by the evil Auta. Saddened by the death of his best friend, General Biharang sought vengeance on Jaunbe and the evil sprit of Auta. He would receive a boost as the 'magic' sword's powers had been revived by Queen Chinsong's blood. She had attempted to commit suicide thinking that the Kingdom of Shilla had fallen at her hands, and in doing so gave the group hope of defeating the evil spirit.
Taking the magic sword into his own hands General Biharang chased after Jaunbe and the evil sprit of Auta to the edge of the cliff. It was the exact spot that Jaunbe had jumped from to commit suicide. At this moment, Jaunbe comes to her senses and regains control of her own body upon catching the lock of her hair that had blown out of General Biharang's hands. It was the same lock of hair that Jaunbe had cut off to give to General Biharang before he went to war. This reminded her of the deep love between them, and all emotions of anger inflicted by Auta's evil spirit had subsided.
But sadly for Jaunbe, General Biharang was committed to murdering her, thinking that she was beyond help. Just as she called out 'General' the magic sword pierced through her body. It was only then that General Biharang realized that he had made a grave mistake. As Jaunbe's body fell into the lake, General Biharang jumped into the lake to join her. They exchanged several kisses beneath the lake, and General Biharang was content to die along with his love. But at the last moment, Jaunbe used her last ounce of strength to push General Biharang away. He survived and surfaced above the water, whilst Jaunbe sunk deep into the lake. She would be lost to the world forever as a result.
We learn that the Kingdom of Shilla flourished and survived because of General Biharang's actions that evening, and that Queen Chinsong would later die of illness upon leaving the palace with her grandson. General Biharang on the other hand would spend the rest of his life kneeling by the edge of the cliff, in the hope of seeing Jaunbe once more.
Rating - 2.5/5
This movie reminds me a lot of the 'whacky' and 'humorous' movies produced in Hong Kong in 80s and 90s dealing with the interactions between ghosts, evil sprits, vixens, and humans. Of those stories the 'Chinese Ghost Story' trilogy comes to mind. The only difference is that whilst the Hong Kong productions tend to be light-hearted, entertaining, and humorous, "Legend of the Evil Lake" is anything but.
"Legend of the Evil Lake" is a more serious film that attempts to examine the battle of good and evil without all of that fun and laughter. Though very entertaining to a large extent, the ending to the film is rather predictable by Korean standards. It appears as if every period film produced in Korea since the year 2000 must end with a tragic and sad ending. This film is no different, with the hero unable to fulfill his goals to revive his lover at the end. I would like to see a Korean period film that actually allows a happy ending. This would be a rare sight, I would imagine, given all the period films I have seen emerging from that country the pas few years.
Though the plot to this film is nothing special, it appeases audiences with the high level of depth from the scenery, battle scenes, costumes, sets design, special effects, and music score. The level of detail, accuracy, and effort put in designing and producing this film makes it especially appeasing to the eyes. The sets and designs of this film made it look very realistic.
As the acting goes, once more it's the first time that I've seen any of the actors in action. Jeong Jun-ho looked very dashing and handsome in the general outfit. I think he has plenty of potential to undertake more roles in period films. Kim Hyo-jin is not one of the prettiest actresses I've ever seen, but she played her role well. Sometimes her facial expressions can be a little bit stiff and static at times. From what I understand, this was only Kim Hyo-jin's second film. So there's plenty of room for improvement but you couldn't really complain against any of the major actors/actresses.
Overall I thought this film was okay and worth watching. Normally I'm not a huge fan this film genre, where humans and evil spirits are involved, but I found it very entertaining. Perhaps being in the company of good friends, sharing pizza, and bottles of cheap red wine had something to do with it. But no one complained or whined during the movie, which was a good sign.