DR. CHEON AND THE LOST TALISMAN (천박사 퇴마 연구소: 설경의 비밀) (2023)

Genre: Horror/Thriller
Director: Kim Seong-sik
Cast: Gang Dong-won, Huh Joon-ho, Esom, Lee Dong-hwi, Kim Jong-soo, Park Soi
Runtime: 1 hr 38 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Official Website:

Opening Day: 12 October 2023

Synopsis: For generations, the eldest son of the village has been the protector, but the current heir, Dr. Cheon (played by Gang Dong-won), is a fake exorcist who doesn't believe in ghosts. Using his penetrating insight into people's minds, he performs fake exorcisms and resolves cases brought to him. However, Yoo-kyung (played by Esom), a client who can see ghosts, approaches him with an offer too tempting to refuse. With his assistant In-bae (played by Lee Dong-hwi), Dr. Cheon heads to Yoo-kyung’s house, and gets involved in a series of strange phenomena. As they delve into the mysteries there, they uncover the secrets of a talisman known as ‘Seolkyung’... A fake exorcist who doesn't believe in ghosts! Real incidents that shake his world are about to unfold!

Movie Review:

With Halloween round the corner, this South Korean movie joins the bandwagon and goes trick or treating with a protagonist that is supposed to be an exorcist of sorts. We are familiar with Western exorcist movies where the possessed individual can turn into something really scary (complete with a 360 degree head turn stunt and the ability to create an unthinkable mess with vomit). In Southeast Asia, we also have some really spooky stuff when it comes to exorcist movies (think about the really bad things that can happen in Thailand and Malaysia if you mess with black magic). Are the spirits in this South Korean movie capable of delivering spooks and chills?

We weren’t quite sure when the movie opens with the titular Dr Cheon (Gang Dong-won) making his way into a big house with his apprentice In-bae (Lee Dong-hwi) to exorcise a demon who has supposedly possessed a young girl. The two men are employed by a rich couple whose daughter is behaving strangely and doing badly at school (if you ask us, that’s probably puberty acting up). We see how Dr Cheon and In-bae rely on technology and theatrics to put up a show and almost fail because of an unforeseen circumstance. The sequence is funny and we begin to wonder whether this is a movie about the two men scamming their way through life.

The mood changes when Dr Cheon is approached by a woman Yoo-kyung (Esom) who claims that she needs help desperately. Initially reluctant, Dr Cheon is attracted by the big reward and goes to the woman’s home with In-bae. There, they see her younger sister tied pup and Yoo-kyung reveals that she can see the spirit possessing her sister’s body. Things get stranger from this point on and when one incident leads to another, we know we are not watching a comedy.

The movie directed by Kim Seong-sik is an action adventure, and the plot predictably develops into one where Dr Cheon has to deal with a traumatic experience from his younger days. The formula is familiar - the suave protagonist and his sidekick who serves as comic relief are on a mission with the female victim who a mere maiden in despair. Joining the trio is the wise Mr Hwang (Kim Jong-soo), who has a connection with Dr Cheon’s past.

With a runtime of 98 minutes, the movie moves along briskly and the action is adequately engaging. The bad guy in question manages to send some chills with his menacing scowl, and younger viewers may be taken aback by how evil spirit possesses people. But everything is still very family friendly here, as one can tell from its PG13 rating. The actors deliver decent performances amidst the frantic chase to get rid of the bad guy. There are also exhilarating scenes which will have you praying that good will triumph over evil. Adapted from the South Korean webtoon, it is very possible that this becomes a movie franchise if the box office earnings are healthy. 

Movie Rating:


(A family-friendly adventure awaits in this South Korean movie that features laughs, spooks and action)

Review by John Li 

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