"Do you know how many creatures envy you? Why? Because you're human.
You know how many creatures desperately want to become human? A vampire. A werewolf. Even foxes!"      

A decidedly odd circus troop rolls into town in a dilapidated camper van, enquiring as to the best place to "find a lot of humans", shortly before a young woman is brutally axed to death nearby. A jaded cop assigned to the case instantly suspects that one or more of the new arrivals is responsible for the girl's death and begins his investigation convinced that, by focusing solely on the circus performers, he will be able to prevent any further deaths and bring the culprit(s) to justice. Meanwhile a sleazy conman, named Gi-dong, who makes his living from filming women with a hidden camera, is on the run from gangsters to whom he owes money and, in his efforts to evade them, stumbles across the troop's circus - coming face to face (so to speak) with the eldest female member of the group. She immediately sets out to seduce him (and succeeds with ease) but, to Gi-dong’s utter surprise, when the girl’s father and brother catch the two of them together they happily give their blessing and even suggest that he should stay with her for at least a month. Almost unable to believe his luck, Gi-dong decides to take them up on their offer, only to discover that the circus troop is actually a family of fox spirits who have taken on temporary human form and plan to become permanently human by each eating a human liver during the forthcoming lunar eclipse - which occurs only once in every thousand years and is due in 30 days' time. It isn't long before Gi-dong also figures out that he is set to be one of the human victims and, in an attempt to buy himself some time to find a means of escape, offers to help the family find the other humans whose livers they require for their transformation…


The Fox Family is, at once, a horror film, a black comedy, a musical extravaganza and a love story, all wrapped up within a life-affirming tale. At the film's core is the Korean legend of the komiho (literally translated as nine-tailed fox) - a fox spirit with the ability to transform itself into human form (most commonly that of a beautiful woman) to lure an unsuspecting, and smitten, human to his death with promises of love and sex.
Tales of the komiho often detail the fox spirit's attempt to become permanently human, in its thousandth year, by eating the liver of its human victim - the organ reputed to contain a human's yang (masculinity) - and such is the goal of the fox spirits in The Fox Family.
In keeping with idea of a beautiful woman ensnaring an unsuspecting male, the story of the eldest daughter and her blossoming relationship with Gi-dong is the most detailed and in-depth of all the fox characters' tales within the film, but though the stories of the other members of the family take up much less of the overall plot, they are equally, if not more, important:
As we become familiar with each of the fox family members and learn of their hopes, dreams, fears and heartaches, it becomes impossible to deny that the humanity which each of them already possesses is far greater than that of any the humans they encounter - who are shown to be selfish, sleazy, violent (even murderous), suicidal or simply willing to destroy the lives of others. That, in itself, raises the question of what being human really means and whether humanity stems from what you are, or from what you do and the life that you choose to live.

For a film which features such a large number of genres (which regularly overlap), illiciting the desired viewer perceptions from the outset is vital and director Lee Hyun-gon achieves this deftly with a series of small lead-ins to larger scenes - such as the fate of a tiny toad in the first seconds of the film, the blood-soaked grin of the family's youngest daughter and the deceased mother of the family singing to her husband from within a photograph. These small lead-ins are perfectly paced, placed and realised and each serves to ease the transition between one genre and the next - allowing horror to seamlessly morph into comedy, comedy to morph into music, music to morph into romance and so on.   

The humour present in The Fox Family is wacky and off-beat, with a style akin to that found in the likes of Save The Green Planet and, though it never quite reaches the same dizzying heights, there are several moments of comedy brilliance on show - most notably the subway scene (featuring the eldest daughter, with the hilarious pole-licking segment) and the severed arm section of the circus show.
As the love story comes to the fore, the comedy is still allowed ample space and, with the juxtaposition of laughter and heartache (again relating to the eldest daughter), a beautiful blend of emotions is created.
As far as the musical aspects are concerned they generally work well, with the only criticism being that the songs could benefit from slightly stronger melodies and musical hooks - but that really is nit-picking.

NB: It should be noted that the minor musical criticism above is in no way aimed at the song which the eldest daughter of the fox family sings on the trapeze. A gorgeous song, both beautifully written and sung, it is the music which will stay with you more than any other.

Direction, Cast & Crew:

The production values present in The Fox Family are high with rich colours used to accentuate the more fantasical elements of the film, especially in the circus performance segments. The camera work is accomplished, repeatedly showing intelligent choices of camera angle and scene framing throughout, while the film editing helps further by allowing swift changes to the overall pace of proceedings as and when necessary. CGI elements are used quite extensively but meld with the live action well, are never overplayed and remain subtle enough in their application to ensure that they never stand out in a way that would detract from the story being told. The soundtrack is equally sumptuous, complimenting the visuals perfectly, and moves between understated incidental music during the unfolding drama to full blown exhuberance during the musical numbers.

The cast each give a worthy performance in their respective roles but special mention should be made regarding both Ko Ju-yeon (as the youngest daughter in the family) and Park Si-hyeon (as the eldest daughter):
Ko Ju-yeon throws herself wholeheartedly into the role of a dog-loving fox child and successfully conveys a character who seems innocent and naive in one moment, yet more wordly-wise than she should be in the next. Her portayal provides more proof of the incredible talent of the younger generation of Korean actors and actresses.
A former Miss Korea, the casting of Park Si-hyeon in the role of the sexy, eldest daughter may initially seem to be for obvious reasons but that really is only part of the story. Her acting, her singing and her ability to convey the off-beat humour (even when it involves her character making an utter fool of herself) is note-perfect throughout and shows, without a doubt, that she is much more than just a pretty face.


At the same time, a horror film, a black comedy, a musical extravaganza and a love story, The Fox Family asks whether humanity is reserved for, and often wasted on, humans. A genuinely funny and engaging film which, like its characters, has more to it than initially meets the eye.
Anyone for some liver?

Actors: Ha Jung-woo, Ko Ju-yeon, Kim Hee-ra, Park Si-hyeon

Director: Lee Hyun-Gon


The DVD used for this review is the UK, Region 2, release from TerraCotta Distribution, which has an anamorphic transfer presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture is incredibly clear with vibrant colours throughout and is free of ghosting and image artifacts. The sound is provided as Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound which is crisp and compliments the high quality of the images beautifully and excellent subtitles are provided for the main feature. The DVD also features trailers of other TerraCotta Distribution DVD titles and distributor contact information.

The review DVD was supplied courtesy of TerraCotta Distribution (www.terracottadistribution.com).

DVD Details:

Format: PAL
Region: Region 2
Number of discs: 1
Classification: 15
Studio: TerraCotta Distribution
DVD Release Date: 10 Aug 2009
Run Time: 102 minutes

DVD Extras:

Trailers/ Promotional material

All images © TerraCotta Distribution and MK Pictures
Review © Paul Quinn