One mustn’t forget to keep their promises. That’s the moral of the morbid Brothers Grimm tale “The Pied Piper”, which gets a twisted reworking in new summer mystery-chiller The Piper. A quick reminder for those who fell asleep during story time, the Grimm tale tells of a small, wealthy village which becomes engulfed with an infestation of rats. An itinerant flautist comes a knockin’ and offers to rid them of their plague for a price. The piper blows his tune and the rodents follow him into a mountain but when the villagers renege on the payment, he plays the same trick on their children.
Kim Gwang-tae’s debut film gives the piper a son and sets the action in a secret village in the mountain in the wake of the Korean War. The pleasantries and omens of the first hour embellish the original story and set the stage for a gruesome final act that mixes in novel and very Korean-style twists.
An affable Ryoo Seung-ryong prances his way through the narrative while Lee Sung-min’s village chief adds a dose of gravitas and Chun Woo-hee’s guileless village girl needles in a twinge of humanity. Frequently arresting and blowing a breath of originality into this year’s stale crop of commercial Korean fare, Kim’s film only falters with a needlessly lengthy setup and a few inchoate sideplots. Those minor grievances aside, The Piper remains a wickedly fun gust of chills that is just the ticket to beat the heat this season.