Posts Tagged ‘South Korea’

I started this series of rewatching movies I previously disliked with an Asian horror film, and it seems I’m ending it with an Asian horror film, albeit from a different country. I swear, that wasn’t intentional.

But before I get into the review, I want to thank you all for keeping up with this series and making it a success. Watching films I’ve hated has been no easy task. It’s time-consuming and can be almost physically painful to watch some of these duds. If it weren’t for the constant reads, likes, and comments you guys gave me, I would’ve probably stopped after film number 3 or 4. So thank you for being there and enjoying these rewatch reviews. I hope you got something from them (particularly ideas about which films to enjoy and which to avoid). I certainly did (some of which my doctor can’t find a diagnosis for).

So onto the final Rewatch Review, the 1998 landmark South Korean horror film, Whispering Corridors.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The film follows Ji-oh, a strong-willed but slightly superstitious artist at an all-girls high school and Eun-young, a young teacher who was once a student at the school. They become aware that there may be a ghost at the school targeting teachers. As Ji-oh tries to figure out if perhaps she’s connected to the deaths, Eun-young knows she has a connection to the deaths, and must try to stop them before they get any worse. Both women will find out, they both have a connection to the deaths, and to the ghosts causing them.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: I was watching a lot of Asian horror films when I saw this one, and I thought this one didn’t compare well to the others I’d seen at the time. Just not scary enough, and too much focus on daily life instead of spooky, scary spirits.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: I found out this was one of the first horror films made in South Korea after the end of the dictatorship, and that it came with a lot of commentary on that time and on the South Korean school system, which made me see it in a whole new light. It also started a successful series of horror films set at all-girls schools, one of which involves a ballet school (and you know I’m a sucker for ballet) and was influential on Korean horror and Korean cinema as a whole. And finally, I needed a tenth movie to round out the series. Hence, Whispering Corridors.

THOUGHTS: Okay, it’s not as intense as other horror films I’ve seen, but it is a decent film.

For one thing, the story does set up a great mystery: it’s established early in the film that the ghost is masquerading as a student, and does a good job of making you guess who the ghost is. And while the body count in this film is small, they’re shot well and at times executed (pun intended) very creatively. All this contributes to create a unique, fairly creepy atmosphere.

There’s also the non-supernatural horror in the film: the school system itself. As I said above, the film features heavy commentary on the South Korean educational system, in this case the darker sides coalesced into one school. A number of the teachers make the school into an uncomfortable place to be. They’re often verbally abusive, set the students against one another and, in the case of one teacher, physically abuse and sexually harass students! I mean, my God! And all on top of a rigorous education philosophy designed to emphasize academic excellence to the point of crowding out everything else. To say the least, it’s horrifying.

That being said, the film does have its problems. The pacing can be very slow, with lots of moments involving people just talking rather than anything supernatural and/or exciting. I know some horror stories are slow-burns, but I don’t think this one should be one of them. Also, the ending is a little sappy, with a special effect that I’ve seen done better in other films.

But that’s the extent of the problems I’ve found. And considering other films with more problems that I’ve seen, I’ll take that.

JUDGMENT: I’m glad I made this film part of this series. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Whispering Corridors a 3.7 out of 5. Not the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, but I recommend seeing it. In a good way, it’s like Texas Chainsaw Massacre: while it may not be that terrifying, you should see it for the impact it has. And I guarantee that if you do see it, you won’t be as disappointed as you might be with TCM.

Just be aware that this is an extremely difficult film to find. Not kidding, I had to jump through a few hoops to find this film (hopefully the sequels will be easier to find). And you’ll likely have to go through a few too to get this one. Just warning you.

 

And that brings an end to the Rewatch Review series, for now anyway. We had laughs, we had tears, we had screams of terror or boredom. And who knows? I may do this again someday, if I can find enough films to rewatch and the will to go through it again. But right now, I think I’ll try getting through my Netflix queue.

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Continuing the trend of Asian horror films I’ve been binging on lately, our latest entry is The Cat, which is cute and scary because it involves kitties!

The Cat follows So-yeon, a young woman working at a pet store whose claustrophobia is so severe her apartment doesn’t even have doors inside it. One day after finishing a grooming session with a rich client’s cat, she starts to see apparitions of a little girl with cat-like eyes (sounds like my girlfriend in 10-15 years). That same day the client ends up dying mysteriously in the elevator, her cat seemingly unharmed. Asked by a friend of hers on the police force to watch over the cat until the investigation is over and the client’s husband decides he wants the cat back, So-yeon is sent on a terrifying journey to find out the origin of the cat she has as well as the little girl before the latter does her in too.

Now, this film is pretty paint-by-the-numbers in terms of story and characters: you see a lot of the normal clichés (the love interest, the friend who’s a bit shallow, the tragic backstory of the ghost, the almost too-good ending, etc.). However, the filmmakers do have a pretty good sense of building tension and keeping the story going without us becoming bored by the structured plot. Plus a lot of scenes with the cats are kind of scary to watch, especially when it involves a cat being mishandled, abused, killed, or dead.* And there’s a very powerful theme running throughout the film about helping those who are helpless, which is represented by a number of characters as well as cats, and it’s hard not to empathize with that.

Overall, I give The Cat a 3.5 out of 5. In a way, it’s similar to Jurassic World: not the best movie of its kind, but it does well on its own and it’ll do the job if you’re looking for that kind of movie.

You know I think I might take a break from all these Asian horror films soon. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part I’m coming across pretty good ones. It’s just that I don’t want to watch them to the point where I’m absolutely sick of them. That nearly happened to me with Stephen King in high school: I read way too many of his books in a short period of time and had to take a break from him lest I stopped liking his work. Now King’s an occasional enjoyment, and perhaps these sort of films should be as well.

Though if anyone finds videos of the films A Tale of Two Sisters, Hanako, or even the French horror film Livide with English subtitles, let me know. I’m dying to see them.

*Don’t worry though, the filmmakers assures the audience at the end that no cats were harmed in the making of this film. As far as we know anyway.

You know, my experience with Asian horror films has been rather hit-and-miss, and even some of the hits have had their share of problems. This one however, at least in my humble opinion, is a hit with very few problems, if any. And considering that I found this film by accident, with no idea what it was about or what most of the critics thought, I’m really glad I decided to watch it.

Someone Behind You (also known by its North American title, Voices) follows a South Korean girl by the name of Ga-in, a happy and pretty girl on her school’s fencing team whose life suddenly takes a turn for the worse when her aunt is brutally murdered in an act of rage on her wedding day. Whispers go around that Ga-in’s family may be under a curse, and when Ga-in is attacked herself, she has to unravel where the curse comes from if she wants to survive.

From the very beginning, this movie has you terrified and on your toes. The filmmakers create a great atmosphere using lighting, music, and scares to really immerse you in the film, and the actors are great. When they are sad or angry or murderous, you feel the emotion behind it. And the story itself, with its many twists and turns, will keep you guessing about what will happen and about the nature of the curse (is it caused by rage? Jealousy? General resentment over something? Is there even a curse at all, or is it just a metaphor for letting your emotions get the better of you?) right up until the final scene.

My one criticism is that Ga-in comes to trust Seok-min, a mysterious transfer student who in horror terms is “the creepy outsider character” and seems to know something about the curse’s nature, a little too quickly. Why doesn’t she question him about his knowledge more? Why is she so willing to take him up on his advice? Makes no sense to me.

Overall though, this is a creepy film, and I’m very glad I stumbled upon it. You’ll get scared, you’ll be trying to guess what’ll happen right up until the very end, and when the final secret is unveiled, it’ll blow you away. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Someone Behind You a 4.5 out of 5. I hope I find more Asian horror films like this one, because nothing lifts my mood like a good scary story.

Now if you don’t mind, I have to go hide. I think that curse is after me now! AAAAAAAH!