Foreign Horror: ‘The Piper’ (2015) An Old Legend With A New Face


Kim Gwang-tae’s  horror, “The Piper”, is a brilliant, surprisingly realistic retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin legend.  I definitely recommend this film!

For context, let me say something about myself:  As a child, I didn’t hear much about the “Pied Piper of Hamelin” legend. I only heard a very basic summary of the story and didn’t really understand its dimensions. Years later, I finally get to experience the story, though as a modern Korean retelling.

Surprisingly, The Piper does not disappoint. The film successfully lights a spark for me, enhancing my interest and respect for the old tale. It truly is one for the ages.  Perhaps you are skeptical, but give it a chance!

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This “Piper” is actually named Kim Woo-ryong (portrayed by Ryu Seung-ryong). He is almost always accompanied by his boy, Young-nam (Gu Seung-hyun). The setting? It’s not long after the Korean War, and Kim and Young-nam are off to Seoul, to find a cure for Young-nam’s lung disease. Kim himself has a wounded leg, and always limps with it.

Still, he has an address written on a slip of paper (in English), and is determined to get there sooner rather than later. However, physical limitations do exist. Exhausted, the two eventually stumble into a remote village, and all the townsfolk seem very reluctant to be seen.

Seung-ryong Ryu as The father / Wandering musician in ‘Kim Kwang-tae’s ‘The Piper’- Courtesy of CJ Entertainment

Eventually, as in the original horror legend, it is revealed that the town has a rat problem. The rats have developed an appreciation for meat, and townspeople fear they’ll soon learn to eat humans. Through surprisingly plausible circumstances (and convincing acting), Kim says he can lead away the rats if the town’s chief (Lee Sung Min) lets him stay in town longer. Not only does the chief promise him that much, but offers a monetary reward as well.

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Being resourceful, Kim develops a brilliant plan, utilizing powders to lure the rats out of the village into a cave.  The plan is successfully carried out (and successfully depicted), but something happens involving human rats — as opposed to actual rats.  Even though Kim essentially saves the town, is an excellent musician and an all around nice guy, the sleazy chief refuses payment. In fact, he accuses Kim of being a communist infiltrator.  Being capable of spite and distrust, the townspeople join in, suggesting (among other things) that Kim had probably orchestrated the rat plague to begin with.

So, instead of giving Kim any credit, the chief claims the rats were led away by the magic of a new shaman named Mi-sook (Chun Woo-Hee). To complicate things even more, Kim was romantically interested in Mi-sook. The chief isn’t having any of it.  Now, as things get dramatic and bloody, the scene is set for Kim’s eventual revenge. Oh the horror of it all.

Along the way, we learn about things like honor, love and loss, orchestrated betrayal and miscommunication. Yes, we see that even jovial, virtuoso pipe players can only be pushed so far. When Kim is pushed to the edge, he will push back. In the process of losing his humanity, he becomes one with legend.

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Finally, there’s a little surprise regarding the address written on Kim’s note. When you see that part, you’ll realize the movie is about to take some dark turns.  Watch this movie and find out!

Seeing The Piper soon? Already experienced this amazing  horror film? Let the other pipers know what you think in the comment section below.