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The Ghost School Trilogy (mini-reviews)

November 25, 2006


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Short Movie Reviews (oh thank gawd - Ed) *cough* of: Whispering Corridors, Memento Mori, and The Wishing Stairs - South Korean ``horror'' films.

As "horrors" (heavy on the quote marks to us westerners) at first glance the (latter -Ed) 2 of the 3 might be seen as sort of Ringu-lite in terms of the scare factor and aesthetic (or lack of Ringu intensity there-of, by apparent horror influence comparison) but as para-psychological atmospheric films, they all work to varying degrees of success.

Collectively they're known as "The Ghost School Trilogy" or as "keesheen younghwa" (Korean for Ghost Stories) but don't otherwise share the same characters or for that matter the same continued plot.

Was fun to learn than in South Korea, a film is considered a sequel (or can be) if it involves a similar element.

Id est, in this case all 3 films involve ghosts or apparitions and all 3 take place in all-girl boarding schools, but otherwise share little else in common.

I really enjoyed the first: Whispering Corridors, (Directed by Ki-Hyung Park) as an foreign atmospheric socio-political-commentary-driven murder-mystery horror.

It hits the mark on several levels from its content and commentary (on life within an all-girl Korean school system - from authority-abuse to interpersonal relationships - though it could as easily apply to Catholic private girl schools here., at one time, I suspect)

..to its psycho-social highly styalized horror film aesthetics with distinctly Asian-horror-cool cinematics.

In short, the first entry in this trilogy Whispering Corridors is a pleasure to experience particularly if you're a foreign film student or horror film buff; would highly recommend adding it to your viewing repertoire, if you 'aven't as yet.

The third in The Ghost School Trilogy: The Wishing Stairs (Directed by Jae-Yeon Yun) I enjoyed the least - though it probably has the most mneumonically impacting concept of the lot in terms of how it reminds you of the simplistic construct of say: a campfire horror story.

(the plot device: if you count aloud as you climb each of the 28 stairs leading up a hillside, a 29th stair will magically appear and The Spirit Fox will grant you a wish)

but I found it came off ultimately unsatisfying because it was predictable and not much more than the done-to-death morality tale of: be careful what you wish for.

Very nicely framed shots however, Bergman'esque, excellent eye. Watch out for the Director Jae-Yeon Yun.

Anyway while the stair-concept and the impressive cinematography itself stayed with me (and for the latter it is worth a look imo) the movie's content was quickly forgotten.

but the middle child of The Ghost School Trilogy: Memento Mori (remember the dead/memory of the dead/keepsake of the dead) that was in my view the best of the lot.

It involves "the L word" encompassing the two major L Words, Lesbian and uh L.

("Love" for some pedantic reason he refuses to say THAT L word - Ed)

Memento Mori's plot: a schoolgirl finds a diary co-written by 2 of her classmates, in it she discovers they were in L but drifted apart. The film is about young L and how confusing magical intense and overpowering it can be. Even after you're dead.

Memento Mori came closest of the 3 to revealing "the truth" or rather several truths., about L, about girl schools, about peer pressure, and by extension about society.

//BEGIN Aside//

'Natch I couldn't say for certain myself, not being a schoolgirl, how accurate a depiction it was of boarding life, but it `felt' like truth.

//END Aside//

Yet it is "the truths" that it tells about girls in L that rises it above the others in the trilogy, and raises it above being just a horror'ish film, imo.

Watched it 3 times, partially because I needed to acclimate myself to the directors flashback style, which is confusing because ee or rather they 'aven't got one!

(co-Directed Siamese style by Tae-Yong Kim and Kyu-Dong Min -- last names first, South Korean style -- with no cinematic effect of any kind that I was able to find to designate a flashback from either)

so you 'ave to be paying close attention.

but mostly I viewed it 3 times because it was worth repeated viewings.

Not so much a horror as I find Memento Mori to be an emotionally truthful film.

In short summary: To foreign-film/horror fans, I would definitely highly recommend Whispering Corridors, if you haven't seen it as yet it ought be available at your video-store, if not in the horror section then in the import section, it's essentially a murder-mystery slash social commentary film with a striking visual distinctly-Asian horror aesthetic with impressive atmosphere. A must-see for any horror film fan.

I do have to say though that I have a bias towards Memento Mori primarily because I'm in my trying-to-better-understand-femmes phase, and it got closest to revealing bits of the truth of that to me, ergo, I L'ed it.

michaelmaelstrom.

 

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