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While investigating the school files, the frightened teacher Mrs. Park startles and calls the young teacher Eun-young Hur, telling her that the deceased Jin-ju Jang is back. The line dies and Mrs. Park is attacked and killed by a ghost. On the next morning, the teenager Jae-yi Yoon waits for her friend Ji-oh Lim, who has the ability to call the spirits, and they begin a close friendship. The abusive and aggressive Mr. Oh, a.k.a. Mad Dog, is the substitute of Mrs. Park and prohibits Ji-oh to paint and compares the performances of the pretty So-young Park and the weird Jung-sook Kim, raising a barrier between the two former friends. Miss Hur misses her former friend Jin-ju, who committed suicide, and while trying to contact her, she discloses a dark secret about the past of her friend and Mrs. Park. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Using the horror genre to tell a high school story.
I really didn't expect much going into this film. I think I'd been burned by too many mediocre horror movies featuring ghosties in the past, so to watch one of the grandmamas of the modern Asian ghost girl genre had me bracing for every trite conceit that could be thrown my way. Whispering Corridors surprised me. Rather than really being a flashy story about hauntings and killings, it turns out more to be an exploration of the impact of the brutal South Corean high school system on the youth that attend it, using the horror genre as the medium.
First of all, I have to say that I wasn't frightened during this film. Not even for a brief moment. Rather than suspense and thrills, I was hooked into the mystery and dramatic elements that were at play. The way that the story is spun, there's no question as to who the ghost was or why it's doing the haunting, but rather, what the ghost's secret is. Now, astute viewers will pick up in the first few scenes of the film what we're looking for and I even managed to make the correct guess at it--although I really just had to watch to have my guess confirmed.
Another interesting aspect of the story is that there are three stories going on. One about an artistic student trying to express herself in a system that cares little for her expression, another about a former student who returns as a teacher trying to make peace with her memories and the last about a student rivalry between a model student and the second-rank peer. The strength of this approach is that we anticipate the collision of the separate story lines and are rewarded when they do collide. The weakness of the approach is that the story has to juggle three (well, really two--the third is a B-story) protagonists and sometimes seems to suffer from a lack of focus.
The film was clearly made in an era of Corean film-making that hasn't yet reached its more modern proficiency and the equipment/film stock used will have an almost grindhouse/direct-to-video feel to it for those who are only used to modern American/European cinema. Nevertheless, while the directing nor acting is spectacular, it is presented sufficiently as not to serve as a detraction from the story.
All in all, this is actually a pretty decent film, even if it's not as much of a horror film as I was expecting. The interesting intertwined story lines and the use of horror to explore societal and personal burdens (and with some measure of tact) left me pleasantly surprised with Whispering Corridors. I can't recommend it to all viewers as the aesthetics might turn off those only looking for beautiful films and those looking for scary ghost or gorefests will be horribly disappointed. But this is an interesting look at the Corean high school experience as well as an intriguing mystery. So, recommended to those with open minds and a willingness to look past the genre for the story within. 8/10.
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