Blood Pledge, A: Broken Promise (Mania.com)

By:John Rose
Review Date: Friday, February 25, 2011
Release Date: Monday, January 31, 2011

What is it the dead wish for those who are left behind and helped lead to their death-revenge or perhaps something else?
 
What They Say
Strange rumors start to spread at the catholic girls' high school after Unjoo commits suicide one night. Unjoo's younger sister Jung-un, who attends the same school, gets suspicious about Unjoo's death. After persistent investigation, Jung-un finds out that on the night of the incident, Soy, Eugene, Eun-young, and Unjoo tried to commit a joint suicide after making a vow on blood. But the other three are still alive...
 
The desire, jealousy, and lies behind the pledge of death between the four girls are revealed, along with the hidden truth behind Unjoo's suicide.
 
The Review!
Audio:
There are two audio tracks available on this release and they are both Korean tracks-one being 5.1 and the other being 2.0. For the purpose of this review the 5.1 track was used. The track is a rather non complex one as the dialogue comes entirely from the center speaker with no directionality noticed though the music is used through the remaining speakers to provide some depth to the experience though. The dialogue track is a clear one that doesn’t get lost in the effects or music and no distortions or dropouts were noticed at any point during playback.

Video:
Created in 2009 the feature is presented in its original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format. The film picture itself is of decent though not spectacular origin as it isn’t as smooth as some used for the big blockbuster films but that doesn’t mean it is bad either. There is a level of grain in the film though not to a distracting level and the encode is a fair one with some of noise and a bit of dot crawl present though colors and blacks are solid for the most part. Overall it comes across solidly on the video side.

Packaging:
The cover of the DVD slip cover features a shot of the main four young women as they stand on a rooftop edge with their hands linked looking at the school grounds below them where the title of the film has been written in a manner that makes it look like blood. The back feature a shot taken from the behind the young women as they look out over the city from the same rooftop edge as on the front cover. Underneath that is the disc copy and below that a number of stills from the feature over the image of the cracks in the roof. The spine features an image of one of the characters from the film with a hand on her head and a look of sheer terror on her face. The disc itself uses the same image of the young woman expanded out to show the ghostly character standing next to her and that is the owner of the hand on the first character’s head.

Menus:
The main menu features a close up of the shot of the four young women with their hands joined as they stand on the edge of the rooftop looking out over the city. Underneath them and at an angle are the disc’s selectable options in white as well as the title written in what looks like blood and a rather melancholy piano piece from the feature plays in the background. The audio select screen has an image of one of the young women standing back to back with the wraith from the film with arms entwined as if they are doing a stretching exercise with their long hair also tied together. The scene select screen uses a shot of the ground as seen from the roof looking down as if from the young women’s viewpoint with stills representing the various chapter stops as the vocal theme from the film plays in part for background music. The highlighted option is shown with an image of a small candle with flame and the menu is quick to respond to changes in selection though there is a little lag in implementing choices selected.

Extras:
There are no extras present on this release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The feature begins as three students (Soy, Eugene, Eun-young ) who attend a girl’s Catholic school in Korea are making a pledge in the chapel to commit suicide together that night. The three acknowledge their friendship and vow that if any of them breaks the pledge that she should be cursed to death as the seal their pledge with blood. Their ceremony is interrupted as a fourth girl (Unjoo) knocks on the chapel doors. Shortly after Unjoo’s younger sister Jung-un arrives in front of the student hall where she is supposed to meet her older sister. As Jung-un texts her sister to see where she is she sees a glow stick fall to the ground followed by her sister whose dying moments are caught in the light of the glow stick.
 
The next day the three girls are being questioned by a teacher since Soy was good friends with Unjoo and the school wants to know if they saw anything that might have led them to think Unjoo was contemplating suicide.  Soy says that she had no indication which the teacher accepts but that doesn’t mean that any of her classmates will. Unjoo was both the school’s top student and from a rich family so the other students are having trouble accepting why Unjoo would have done what she did. As the rumors start to spread as people try to come to terms of why events transpired other students attempt to confront Soy, Eugene, and Eun-young themselves but run into a wall of silence and denial from the three girls.
 
Soy meanwhile is having trouble dealing with events and she finds she is unable to actually bring herself to attend Unjoo’s funeral though she runs into Jung-un just outside the room who pleads with Soy as to what the reason for the suicide was. A flashback shows that up until the current school year Unjoo and Soy were the best of friends. Despite a pledge to remain friends despite being put into separate classes Unjoo starts to hang around with current classmates Eugene and Eun-young and she ignores Unjoo. As Eugene meets up with Soy they both start having feelings that they are being stalked and the film shows at times them being approached by spectral hand or being watched from the school roof by someone who isn’t there when Eugene turns to see what she sensed. The three girls then meet as Soy has become convinced that she must tell the truth of what they know and it is revealed that the girls lied about their knowledge of Unjoo's suicide.
 
Not everything is as it seems though as the school has gained something stronger now as a girl who is being bullied at school decides to commit suicide in the same manner Unjoo  did. The girl finds herself face to face with first an unnatural storm when attempting to jump from a classroom window and then the bloody image of Unjoo floating in the air outside the window which prevents her attempt. This just increases the spread of rumors around the school as now teamed with the ghost stories the rumor mill starts to go into overdrive with people trying to come to terms with Unjoo’s actions.
 
The union between the three girls who know the truth starts to splinter as those seeking the truth and those telling rumors start to mount in number and pressure and as the feelings of being watched by something not human grow. As the story progresses the reasons behind each of the four girl’s actions will be slowly peeled away as their individual pain runs head long against the attempt by one member to manipulate that pain. The pain will continue to be shown and build as Unjoo apparition starts to be more prevalent leading the girls to wonder how to end their haunting and also deal with their individual pain that has now laid itself bare. In the end will the story turn on their failed pledge to commit suicide and the question of if they now are being cursed or if the dead want something other than to continue the cycle of pain.
 
Blood Pledge gives the impression that it will be the story of supernatural revenge that then turns much of that expectation onto itself. The supernatural elements become almost second to the events in the lives of four girls as they attempt to balance out the pain in their life with the consequences of those attempts. It really is a story of some horrible things that can haunt young women in real life with the supernatural being used as more a story element than the driving force. The film does fall a little short in its peeling away the layers of pain to get to the true center of events that lead up to Unjoo’s suicide as well as occasionally fitting in a character out of the blue to try to show events are growing larger than just the girls immediately involved. Also a little more of a deft touch could have played up the horror elements that at times just seem to be added as a hook for the deeper story. Still it is a worthwhile watch though it may remind some of pains they too experienced in high school even if the events in the film take place almost half a world away.

In Summary:
A Blood Pledge: Broken Promise is a fairly powerful character piece of people living with their individual pain as well as the consequences of their attempts to deal with it. While the series looks at first to be a ghost story of revenge it goes far deeper than one might initially suspect into the world of violence, bullying and other trials that can present themselves to young women in any culture. The lack of a deft touch with the horror elements keeps this from being a great film in that regard but the power of the emotions and situations of those living through the events makes up for this in a different fashion. Those looking for a story of high school gone array and the heavy drama it brings with a touch of the supernatural will find this a worthy endeavor.

Features
Korean 5.1 Language, Korean 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B-
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 24.99
Running time: 88
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: