With Project Wolf Hunting, writer and director Kim Hong-sun ensures that the audience is taken on a journey that will test the limits of their toleration for extreme violence and bloodshed. This film is not for the faint of heart, and even cinephiles that generally have a strong resolve for depictions of blood and gore in movies may be shocked by the limits that are pushed in Hong-sun’s film. In other words, Project Wolf Hunting seems to be right at home at Fantastic Fest.
For the majority of the first half of the movie, the viewer may find themselves with the notion that they understand exactly where this film is heading. The overarching storyline has aptly been compared to Con Air. A group of prisoners that are being transported from the Philippines to South Korea on a cargo ship manage to take control of the vessel. But, when the narrative reaches a specific moment that feels like it would have been the climax of a film following the path of Con Air, one may begin to wonder how Project Wolf Hunting is going to manage a compelling final hour of runtime. The answer to this question is soon provided in bombastic fashion as the film essentially switches genres into full-on slasher territory.
The twist could be categorized as a sci-fi story element, but it is very much based on the horrors of some of the darkest realities of our world’s history. Specifically, there is an aspect of commentary on the human experimentation that was found in concentration camps in World War II. These atrocities are unspeakable, but they are a part of history that cannot be forgotten or ignored. It is commendable that Hong-sun would turn the focus of his filmmaking to exploring an issue on this level. A relatively recent comparison that comes to mind is the 2018 film Overlord, directed by Julius Avery, which examines similar subject matter. There is a wider conversation to be had about the sensitivity of this material and whether or not these movies are exploitative, but in the case of Project Wolf Hunting in particular, Kim Hong-sun has made his intentions clear. In his director’s statement, Hong-sun says, “The reason why this film puts under a microscope on dismantling naked violence conceived by people’s excessive desire is simple. It is a promise not to repeat the tragedy and show willpower to treat a human as a human.”
In addition to the Con Air parallels, there are also shades of Terminator and Predator in the story structure of Project Wolf Hunting when it hits slasher mode. To give specifics would spoil the main twist, but rest assured that there is a distinct reason that the word “wolf” is in the title of the film. The fashion in which this manifests itself both physically and thematically is incredibly surprising, but is also part of a tightly woven narrative fabric. There are clever moments at earlier points in the screenplay that do not even stand out until these setups are paid off with a satisfying delivery later in the story. As far as the character development, Hong-sun’s film does not reveal its protagonist in the most traditional sense. When the genres blend and fold together, the character viewpoints also evolve. By the end of the film, the character that is found to have the most emotional resonance is an unexpected and intriguing narrative device in itself.
To call the action intense is an understatement. The blood flows like a river and the practical effects team and makeup artists deserve credit for bringing such a splatterfest to life. Unfortunately, some of the camera movement and editing periodically makes these action sequences difficult to discern. It is hard to say if this was a directorial decision or more of a fundamental issue with the cinematography and editing. But regardless, it did detract from the viewing experience at times. Nevertheless, the stunt performers were obviously up to the challenge of an undertaking with great physical demands. These crew members and their efforts often do not get the recognition they deserve, but there seems to have been progress in recent years to amending this oversight. Hopefully this trend continues and the respect for stunt professionals grows in time.
Project Wolf Hunting is not a film that many would describe as fun or enjoyable, but it is undeniably gutsy, figuratively speaking and also quite literally. Usually when you hear the phrase “blood, sweat, and tears,” it is not meant to be translated so directly. But with a movie of this raw disposition, it looks like director Kim Hong-sun and his crew found a way to make exactly the film they envisioned.
Screening during Fantastic Fest 2022.
Final Score: 3 out of 5.