In Search for Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman, A South Korean Horror Fantasy

It’s not just supernatural hijinxs that’s going on in Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman but also there’s a past this good doctor must confront if he’s to save the day.

Dr Cheon and The Lost Talisman Proper Movie PosterWell GO USA
Release Date: Oct 6, 2023

In South Korea, the belief in ghosts is very real, and it’s best not to annoy them. In Dr. Cheon and The Lost Talisman (천박사 퇴마 연구소: 설경의 비밀), this spiritualist better be on his A-game if he’s to best them. But when he’s mostly a huckster, preying upon others’ fear of the unknown, what he discovers awakens memories he’d rather forget.

That’s because this individual (wonderfully played by Gang Dong-Won) lost a brother and his grandfather to an evil sorcerer. This individual wants the gift of true vision since he can’t do it himself. He wants to look into the spirit world and that isn’t easy. In this film, they are referred to as seolgyeong. As for what they are, lost souls or the divine, it doesn’t matter. And unless Cheon is willing to save others from losing their eyes to a dark mage (Joon-ho Huh), they will die.

Although Yoo-Kyung (Esom) doesn’t realise she’s the next target, she got lucky in meeting this doctor after hiring him to perform an exorcism on her little sister. Although he manages to save one soul, another one is doomed! The real story concerns him learning about how he comes from a long line of guardians. Not only will he have to deal with that evil from his past but also he’ll have to fight it too!

Dong-Won’s performance may have been inspired by what he likes about the anime, Cowboy Bebop. He’s like Spike. Both are very nonchalant and the way he dresses looks very familiar! Although technically he’s no bounty hunter, the occupation he’s in may well mark him as one anyways.

Dr Cheon and Yoo-Kyung

Along for the ride is In-Bae (Lee Dong-Hwi). He provides comic relief and is hardly the Doubting Thomas. This partner in crime is the one faking everything, but ultimately, this double act acts as a nice counterpoint to the dilemma that’s still to unfold. Although their sideshow routine feels lifted from Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners, the humour is not overdone.

Also, the paranormal world isn’t really all that played up and what’s presented in regards to the spiritual world is mostly on the same level as other Asian films that add comedy to the mix. I don’t even see this movie as a scary experience, but only a fantastical one when considering this film’s title. Sadly, the bad guy doesn’t get a lot of character development. When considering this movie is adapted from the webcomic, Possessed, written by Hooressha and illustrated by Kim Hong-Tae, I think I’ll have to search for a fan translation to look at what didn’t get translated over.

I enjoyed this mystical adventure despite having lingering questions about the protagonist’s past. Although I’m sure all those details can be fleshed out in sequels, to say whether Dr. Cheon will get more adventures is really hard to tell. To expand this series appeal around the world is tough and when not everyone gets it, some IPs are doomed to linger in limbo than be lost in the translation.

3½ Stars out of 5

Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman Official Trailer

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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