Review: VIXX: “Voodoo Doll” or “Torture Porn”

vdoll

VIXX have done it again. I thought they might’ve peaked with “Hyde,” but they’re back with “Voodoo Doll” and despite its awkward title, it is fucking awesome.

Like any group that sees a sudden spike in popularity after a hit song, VIXX have their share of critics. I am not one of them. While I’m not about to get (too) hyperbolic, I will give them credit for one thing: it seems these guys knew exactly which of my ticky boxes to check. Which sounds really dirty now that it’s in writing but I’m keeping it in this review. Post “On and On” VIXX’s songs, concepts, and music videos have shown an impressive quality (and budget) reminiscent of veteran groups, or rookies from a major company (and by that I mean YG or JYP, because let’s be real, SME would have them in a colorful box). While some fans are weary of horror concepts, I have to say that VIXX really shine when they do one. Admittedly, I’m a bit biased—as a horror movie enthusiast who’s a hard sell when it comes to cute/aegyo concepts, this song and video tick off all my boxes.

The initial teasers for “Voodoo Doll” overshadowed the song a bit with their liberal use of gore and violence. They’re even more gory than the “Hyde” teasers. Given my love of horror movies, I’m pretty desensitized, but I was a little surprised at how much VIXX went for the gusto, seeing as they’re a rookie K-pop group. Not complaining, by the way. Just surprised. This is some American Horror Story realness. Or should I say Korean Horror Story?

Or course, there were other… factors… distracting from the violence:



All of these factors served to sufficiently distract me from the actual song (or what I could glean of it from the teasers), but now that I have experienced it in its entirety, it is sublime. The beat is a jam, the kind of thing made to experience on high-end headphones or pulsing through a crowded, smoke-filled club while you’re on the dance floor and you don’t even care that your feet ache from heels and your eyes are stinging from that damn smoke drying up your contacts. The song itself is flawlessly constructed, much like “Hyde” was, with the verses building up to a sufficiently dramatic crescendo in the chorus and the bridge. Now, I might shade Ravi a lot, but his melodrama serves the bridge rap well. The final chorus is a soaring triumph of harmonized voices bolstered by Leo’s trademark power wails. I look forward to his dramatic poses during those notes in the lives. I don’t know how he does those notes live and has any voice left. Anyway, seeing as I know fuck all about music theory, this is as technical as my song review gets. I do, however, have a phD in pretty boys, so on to the real, er, meat of this review.

As always, VIXX’s choreographers are on point. Granted, you don’t get as much of a sense of the dance from the video as you would from live performances, particularly since this one has an actual storyline (or as much of one as a K-pop video ever gets), but what I do see is as visually striking as ever. Their dancing has always been incredibly crisp and synchronized, and this video is no exception. The choreo makes clever use of a prop reminiscent of a giant sewing pin—phallic symbols yay! There are moves in which the members appear to be stabbing themselves (or each other), accompanied by a conspicuous spray of corn syrup. Said corn syrup appears black in the video, a nice Sin City-esque touch to make it seem more stylized and less visceral. And of course there are some more… interesting uses of the pin, like the move during the bridge when it looks like Ravi’s about to fellate the thing.

The cinematography makes effective use of quick cuts and filters, which serve to set the tone and match the frenetic pace of the music. The video passes in a stark wash of muted tones, with a splash of color (most often red) to add a sufficiently moody touch. The costumes are done in black, white, and various shades of gray, with no crazy hair colors this time (all of the members actually have black hair, which fits the concept). The patched and torn costumes evoke an austere kind of Frankensteinian aesthetic, and the stitched-up suits are obviously meant to echo the image of the voodoo doll that appears throughout the video. Some of the costumes are strategically slashed to reveal enough skin to be titillating but cover enough to remain teenage-girl safe.




Well played, costume designers. Well, except for the part where N’s wearing too much clothing. But you get me. We’re also treated to some straight-up creepy shots of obviously-fake-but-nonetheless-gross gore, including stitches and piercings in skin. We’ve got some random brains and eyeballs thrown in there, too, for good measure.

The “storyline” of the video centers on a beautiful but insane woman who keeps the guys prisoner in a gothic-looking dungeon, and tortures them using a voodoo doll (or sometimes, just her own two hands). Our opening montage features a scalpel slicing through skin to the tune of some creepy piano music, just to set the mood. Start us off on some gore right away, you know. There ain’t no easing us into this. We’re treated to flashes of the guys in their various imprisonments and that creepy ass doll, and then the girl lovingly caressing said doll with black-polished nails. By now we’re transitioning into Ravi’s awkward intro in… I can’t even tell what language that is. Fortunately, there’s enough going on that we don’t pay as much attention to it, as we did with “Hyde.” Oh, and we also get shots of him and Hongbin wearing delightfully freaky lenses.

We start off with a really cool-looking dance move in which they throw Ken to his feet like a rag doll (hehe see what I did there?). The bulk of the video features the guys being tortured in various ways by the girl, who seems to be having way too much fun with it. We don’t know why they’re being held there or why she’s doing this, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s about setting the mood, not a complex storyline. I like when videos keep it simple, personally. We all know what happens when videos get too ambitious with storylines and it (link to t-ara)ain’t (link to mblaq)pretty. Well, pretty perhaps, but not particularly coherent. I would say this video is pretty much the epitome of torture porn, because damn these guys look attractive when they’re being fake-tortured (I know, I know, I have no idea wtf is wrong with me, either). I imagine everyone involved had a lot of fun acting out these scenes. Sure, there was some hammy overacting (this is a music video, after all, and not Oscar bait) but in the midst of it all came what I thought was a really great and haunting moment when Ken reached out to his captor:

Hongbin’s performance was another standout, all unhinged and sporting copious amounts of guyliner. There was a shot near the end reminiscent of Japanese horror films, right down to his crazy eyes:


Better watch out, Ravi. Hongbin’s going to snatch your drama llama wig.

The climax of the video occurs when the guys manage to break out of their prisons and try to escape. But the girl uses her voodoo doll to drag them back (or at least, Hongbin. Guess she must be Hongbin biased). We’re treated to an exceptionally creepy final montage in which Hongbin sits in a chair, not resisting, with those freaky lenses in his eyes. I guess he’s finally become her person-sized doll. There are a handful of realdoll jokes I could make here, but I’m not going to. Because I’m a classy reviewer.

And now I’m going to end on a classy note, and recommend this song and video to anyone who enjoys pretty boys, jams, and ticking their boxes.

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