Film Review: Entertaining Fantasy “Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman”

dr cheon and the lost talisman 2023 film movie reviewIt’s a trope you’ve seen before; a scam supernatural investigator who is startled to find out that they might have to confront actual ghosts and spirits. The concept is rather ingenious because we immediately identify with the investigators because we too are skeptical that there are really supernatural entities, but what if there are? Not only is this a Hollywood trope with films like Ghostbusters, The Brothers Grimm, The Frighteners, and 1408, but it turns out to be a more universal phenomenon. Entering this genre is the fun and fantastical Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman. With a name like that, it’s clear that director Kim Seong-sik also leaned on Indiana Jones mythos but it’s all expertly woven together into a fun and highly entertaining film that zips through its short 89 minute running time.

Dr. Cheon (Gang Dong-won) is the grandson of a famed village shaman but doesn’t believe in the supernatural. He can’t help exploit his heritage, however, so makes a living performing fake exorcisms for his online fans. He is ably assisted by his goofy pal In-bae (Lee Dong-hwi) and Mr. Hwang (Kim Jong-soo), who is convinced that the supernatural is real and that ghosts are all afraid of ritual drums and ancient musical instruments. As they perform their first exorcism with all the traditional Korean religious trappings, we’re aware that In-bae is actually a tech wizard who has set up all sorts of tricks to go off as needed to make everything look real.

dr cheon and the lost talisman publicity still

All is good until the mysterious Esom (Yoo-Kyung) drops $50,000 onto Dr. Cheon’s desk; she has a doozy of an exorcism she needs him to do and he can’t resist a payment that’s 10x his usual fee. Her cursed village, however, turns out to be where Cheon’s grandfather died trying to rid the town of a malevolent spirit. That spirit returns in the form of the evil Mage (Huh Joon-ho), who has some neat tricks of his own ready to confound Dr. Cheon and embarrass him along the way too!

It’s real evil versus scam paranormal exorcist and it doesn’t take too long for things to heat up in a very typically Asian fantasy manner, with swords, patterns in the sky, and of course the all-important talisman to ensure that good triumphs over the Mage. The visual effects are excellent and add much to the charm and adventure of Dr. Cheon and the Lost Talisman. There’s never really any doubt as to the outcome of the story, but that’s part of the fantasy genre anyway, and results in a happy ending.

What is a surprise is that there’s a mid-credit scene a la Marvel that you won’t want to miss. Recommended for fans of Asian fantasy cinema and those just dipping their toe into this fun genre that’s very different from the American fantasies that are always so heavily influenced by Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings universe. There’s not a troll or goblin in sight, though there might be a few undead shambling along…


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dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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