Based on the Korean fairy tale of The Nine-Tailed Fox, every 1000 years during a 30-minute lunar eclipse, a fox can achieve humanity if they eat a human liver. A family of foxes, thanks to a magical spell, has come down from their mountain home in human form to assess humanity and prepare for the event. They’ve taken on the guise of a single father, with an adult son and two daughters, one a young adult and the other only a child. They’ve also taken up circus performing, and their show includes actual arm severing in which the entire audience, made up mostly of children, fall victim to arterial spray. That’s really the problem though: their act only attracts kids, which won’t do for their liver-eating intentions. So they have to venture out and gather a group of adults for the occasion, which is much easier said than done due to their ineptitude at being human. There’s also the matter of some recent neighborhood murders, and since the family is new in town, they end up becoming the prime suspects.
For a musical to work without me rolling my eyes and reaching for the remote, it has to be so absurd and over-the-top that the singing and grandstanding seems commonplace. Lucky for me, this describes Hyung-gon Lee’s The Fox Family perfectly. Apparently all of Korea realizes this, as one of the only other musicals I’ve seen recently that didn’t have me getting the douche chills was E.J. Yong’s similarly goofy Dasepo Naughty Girls. Unlike that film however, The Fox Family relies much more on charm and comedic elements that are for the most part accessible to all rather than being ludicrous and catering only to connoisseurs of the bizarre. That isn’t to say The Fox Family is pedestrian though; quite the contrary. It’s twisted and perverse enough to attract those that veer away from the mainstream; it’s just lacking one-eyed students and crotch-scratching demon banishment. Although it does feature erotic ramen slurping and a dude dressed in a Wonder Woman costume, so who am I kidding? I just have a feeling that amidst the wackiness, the film has heart which results in a wider range of appeal.
The story itself definitely borrows elements from films like Takashi Miike’s great The Happiness of the Katakuris and even The Rocky Horror Picture Show, taking a somewhat dark subject (sure, foxes are cute and all, but when they want to eat my liver? Not so cute) and making light of it through heaps of laughs and singing about it. Honestly, how can’t you feel bad for a cute girl that only wants to be human and sings about it somberly? Oh yeah, SHE WANTS TO KILL YOU! And that’s honestly one of The Fox Family’s strongest aspects: seeing this family, which is undeniably endearing, yet are, at their root, killers. It’s a lot of fun to watch them play at such innocence (except for the youngest daughter, who is more than happy to give in to her basic instinct without worry), simply because they are just animals and this is what they do. One of the best series of events happens early on, where the three older family members hit the town in an attempt to lure their future dinners. Dad ends up getting the cold shoulder, his son can’t dance and manages to pull his partner’s skirt down in front of the entire club, and the eldest daughter puts on a sexy dance only to find out she’s been doing so for a blind man. It’s all very awkward, but very funny, and as I’ve said a few times already, extremely charming.
Visually the film is truly something to behold. It’s clear the film had a sizable budget, as the set design, lighting, and costumes are superb, as is the framing and cinematography. There’s a great chase sequence mid-film that feels very reminiscent of the penultimate scene in Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, as the police officer chases the youngest daughter, who is decked out in a red raincoat, down some dark, stony alleyways. I was honestly expecting to see her eventually find herself cornered and turn around with a fox-faced scowl. The only real problem I had with any of the production was the transformation scenes late in the film, and while they weren’t bad at all, they looked more like a character going “Vampy” in an episode of Buffy than something that looks appropriate for a bigger-budgeted film such as this. A small complaint, but hey, that’s what reviews are for, right?
I have little bad to say about The Fox Family; it was consistently enthralling from the opening credits to the final scene (although the climax does seem rather random, but I guess that falls in line with much of the film), and my reservations about the musical numbers were quieted since they work just fine in the context of the film. Something tells me I’ll be revisiting The Fox Family often in the future, and that’s not something I say often considering I’m of the adage that there’s so many films out there, who has time to watch the same things over and over? The Fox Family is pure cinematic bliss.
Available on R2 DVD in the UK courtesy of Terracotta, The Fox Family gets wonderful treatment, at least in the A/V department. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the print looks amazing, with no damage and fantastic color reproduction. It’s also flagged for progressive scan and isn’t an NTSC->PAL conversion, so no worries about combing or frame stutter. The 5.1 audio is robust, with a nice balance of highs and lows and good directionality. The optional English subtitles are free of errors. Sadly, there are no extras on the disc except for some trailers for other Terracotta releases, but the quality of the film and the disc’s reasonable price-tag (£5.48, or a whopping $9US if you’re importing) more than makes up for it.
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