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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
Successfully intertwines horror and social commentary
In the haunting opening sequence, we witness the mysterious death of a teacher at a South Korean all girls school. She is discovered by her pupils (her hanging body is a nightmarish image that will tattoo itself on your memory), and their abusive principal tells them it was a suicide. Before she died, she telephoned her young coworker and told her that "Jin-Ju is here. She's still alive!" Baffled by this, the young teacher embarks on an investigation to figure out what exactly is going on at this school. She finds that the ultra-competitive students are not what they seem on the surface.
In its trailer, "Whispering Corridors" is credited as being the film that started the "Asian Horror Explosion." I'm not so sure about that, as Ringu is far better known and appears to have been released first. However, this truly is an excellent supernatural story that deserves as much recognition. While the movie leans heavily on drama and mystery, the frightening scenes are very effective. Those that take place in the long ominous hallways in the empty school at night, as well as in the condemned art studio, are incredibly creepy and atmospheric.
The performances by the entire cast, especially the young actresses, are excellent. Throughout the film, we are introduced to several of the repressed but competitive girls. There's the insecure nerdy girl who believes in magic, her best friend who is desperate to be popular and secretly wants to be an artist, the prettiest girl who is also at the top of the class, and the vicious-eyed girl who is second in rank and never utters a word. As the body count increases, the viewer is given several hints as to why each of these girls (as well as the violent and lecherous principal) could be a suspect.
The film culminates with a sappy sequence that will likely cause you to eyeroll through it is duration, but it is easy to forgive this melodrama after seeing the chilling final shot of the film. The chronology may be confusing for some (though it is much easier to follow than many Asian supernatural horrors!), but all the sideplots are nicely tied together in the final sequences. What makes "Whispering Corridors" especially interesting is its strong underlying message of solidarity above competition in young women. Not only was I surprised to find social commentary of this type successfully incorporated into a horror movie, but I was doubly astounded to find it in one from South Korea. Yet, the messages here are especially potent because they are universal. I wish this unique horror film could find a larger audience because it deserves to be seen by more people.
My Rating: 8/10
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