February 28, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Kim Hong-seon
Korean with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place mostly on a ship going from the Philippines to South Korea, the sci-fi/horror/action film “Project Wolf Hunting” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.
Culture Clash: South Korean criminals, who are being transported by ship from the Philippines to South Korea, take violent control of the ship, and they find out that they have been captured for reasons other than to face criminal charges.
Culture Audience: “Project Wolf Hunting” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in suspenseful horror movies and have a high tolerance for watching scenes of bloody violence.
“Project Wolf Hunting” revels in a lot of gore, but this sci-fi horror movie also has a solid story that’s packed with thrilling action. Plot twists and memorable characters make “Project Wolf Hunting” better than the average bloody horror flick. The movie starts off looking like it will be one type of story, but then it turns into something else that is far more intriguing. “Project Hunting” had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.
Written and directed by Kim Hong-seon, “Project Wolf Hunting” doesn’t waste time before the mayhem starts in the first 15 minutes of its 123-minute total running time. The movie begins by showing several South Korean criminals being escorted by law enforcement officers onto a ship going from the Philippines to South Korea. All of the criminals were arrested and convicted in the Philippines for their crimes, but the convicts are being deported to South Korea to serve out the rest of their prison sentences. At least, that’s what they’ve been told.
A cunning, handsome and ruthless prisoner named Park Jong-doo (played by Seo In-guk) has no intentions of going quietly on this trip. He is a leader who has concocted a plan with some of the other prisoners to take over the ship, in order to escape. The other prisoners who are part of the scheme include Lee Do-il (played by Jang Dong-yoon), a baby-faced killer who is famous; Lee Seok-woo (played by Park Ho-san), who is; and Choi Myeong-ju (played by Jang Young-nam), one of the few women on the ship. Myeong-ju has a secret connection with someone else on the ship, and this secret is eventually revealed.
Before the hostage crisis on the ship happens, several of the police officers are seen gathered in the ship’s kitchen. They express frustration and disdain that the prisoners are getting special treatment by the South Korean government. One of the cops complains, “The perps are getting better food than us.”
Elsewhere on the ship, a severely burned man, who is lying down on a gurney and breathing through a ventilator, is in a secret room that looks like a scientific lab. He has maggots coming out of his mouth. This mystery person is then given an injection. It won’t be the last time that viewers will see this charred-looking and infected person.
The criminals’ hostage plan is set into motion when a guy dressed in a mechanic’s uniform secretly takes a wrench and tampers with a safety bolt on this ship, causing a mechanical malfunction. The ship’s crew is distracted by trying to fix this problem (just as the criminals had planned), when Jong-doo and the rest of his cronies attack the crew and police officers, take weapons, and commit a brutal slaughter. How vicious is Jong-doo? He bites off an ear off of a man, chews up the ear, and then spits it out.
One of the ship’s crew members whose life is spared is Go Kun-bae (played by Ko Chang-seok), because the criminals need a few of the crew members who know the ship’s mechanics, in case anything goes wrong with the ship. Meanwhile, the ship has mysteriously gone off the radar of the South Korean government. A few other characters in the movie have pivotal roles, including a corrupt government official named Chief Pyo (played by Choi Gwi-hwa) with the code name Alpha; the ship’s captain Oh Dae-woong (played by Sung Dong-il); and a young police officer named Lee Da-yeon (played by Jung So-min), one of the other few women in this movie.
“Project Wolf Hunting” has some predictable moments, but there are some plot developments that steer clear of the usual stereotypes. It’s already shown in the movie’s trailers that what’s happening on this ship is somehow related to Japan’s 1910 to 1945 occupation of South Korea. The movie also reveals in the first 15 minutes that the massacre isn’t the only sinister thing happening on this ship.
“Project Wolf Hunting” is certainly not going to win any prestigious awards. And some of the violence is very excessive. However, Seo’s performance as the evil gang leader Jong-doo is riveting but might be too disturbing for some viewers. What makes “Project Wolf Hunting” a twist-filled story is that Jong-doo might or might not be the movie’s biggest villain. And who ends up in the final showdown cannot be easily predicted in the movie’s first 15 minutes.
“Project Wolf Hunting” has well-paced action, competent acting and some social commentary about how governments can treat prisoners and other people whom society has deemed “undesirable.” It’s not a groundbreaking film, but the plot surprises are indications that the filmmakers made an effort not to stick to the usual formulas found in similar sci-fi horror movies. Viewers who think they’ll want to watch all of “Project Wolf Hunting” just have to prepared to see many gruesome depictions of humanity at its worst.
Well Go USA released “Project Wolf Hunting” in select U.S. cinemas on October 7, 2022. The movie was released in South Korea on September 21, 2022. “Project Wolf Hunting” was released on digital, VOD, Blu-ray and DVD on February 14, 2023.