2016’s Train to Busan was such an adrenline-fuelled ride, that pretty much anything that follows is going to seem pale in comparison. Seoul Station, whilst inventive and an interesting choice to give an origin story for the outbreak, or at least some more context, lacked the ongoing tension and pressure that Train to Busan did and felt tame in comparison. Yeon Sang-ho’s follow up to these zombie/infected films is a different kettle of fish altogether but still distinctly South Korean cinema.
Psychokenesis follows the fortunes of an estranged, and deadbeat, father Seok-heon (Ryu Seung-ryong), his determined daughter Roo-mi (Shim Eun-kyung) and her battle along with her compatriots to save the shopping area, that they have poured their life into, from the clutches of an uncaring and divisive construction company willing to take any measures necessary to clear out the remaining tenants so that they can start their building.
When Roo-mi’s mother dies from the result of a clash with the rowdy mob, Seok-heon is brought back into her life. At the same time, after drinking some mountain spring water (coincidentally tainted with the contents of a recently landed meteor) Seok-heon starts to gain telekinetic powers.
Far from being a standard superhero film, Psychokenesis is a strange mix of comedy and social drama with a bit of over-the-top action thrown in there too. And this why I love Korean cinema; inventive ideas explored in a novel and interesting way but with a snide side to it as well, a bit of tongue-in-cheek peppered throughout to remind you that maybe this shouldn’t be all too serious. The comedic elements are more obvious and given more prominence than in Train to Busan, but what we are really dealing with here is the power of capitalism and gentrification stamping all over the little man and what can be done to fight against it.
The film itself looks really good, picking some great locations and certainly looks like there weren’t any corners cut in the making of it. The special effects also look great with objects and people being thrown through the air with increasing frequency and control. Blending these elements together is no mean feat but Yeon Sang-ho manages to do this and forms a coherent story with characters that makes you care about their present and what will happen in their futures. The dark tone of the situation for the store-owners is all too real for some but placed alongside the bumbling comedy of Seok-heon it didn’t totally work for me as the disparity between the two tones was too great.
I wasn’t blown away by Psychokenesis but I did find myself watching with keen interest as to what would happen. That being said, it is still a better film than some of Netflix’s more recent efforts such as The Titan and Bright.