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Wishing Stairs (2003)
"Yeogo goedam 3: Yeowoo gyedan" (original title)

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Reviews: 24 user | 37 critic

A staircase leading to the dormitory of a remote boarding school usually has 28 stairs, but every so often there appears to be 29. When someone steps on the mysterious extra stair, the horror begins

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Title: Wishing Stairs (2003)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Ji-hyo Song ...
Yun Jin-seong
Han-byeol Park ...
Kim Sohee
An Jo ...
Eom Hye-ju
Ji-Yeon Park ...
Han Yun-ji
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Su-a Hong
Wu-jin Jang
Ji-min Kwak
Jung-Hee Moon
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Storyline

In a Korean boarding school, there is a legend about its twenty-eight steps stairway: when the twentieth-ninth step appears, the fox will grant a wish to the climber. The lesbian ballet student Kim So-hee is in deep love with her passive girlfriend and also ballet student Yoon Jin-sung. When there is a competition for a single spot in a famous ballet school in Russia, the envious Jin-sung finds the twentieth-ninth step and asks to beat the favorite So-hee. However, there is a price to pay for the wish unknown to Jin-sung and the consequence is the accidental death of So-hee. Meanwhile, the fat student Eon Hae-ju, who is despised and tormented by her classmate Han Yoon-ji, misses So-hee. When she also finds the mysterious step, she wishes the return of So-hee with tragic consequences. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Do you dare to climb the 29th step?

Genres:

Horror | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violent and disturbing images | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

1 August 2003 (South Korea)  »

Also Known As:

Whispering Corridors 3: Wishing Stairs  »

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Did You Know?

Quotes

Yun Ji-seong: Fox, fox, please, grant my wish... Let me win just this once.
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Connections

Followed by Voice (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Very good school suspense drama but the glacial,"paint drying" pacing undermines its horror appeal
14 December 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This film was a little frustrating in that it's very, very well done in terms of writing, acting, production design and cinematography, but is paced far too slow to manage any real "fright factor" as a horror/ghost story.

I'm well aware that Asian horror films tend to run at a much slower pace than American horror as a general rule, but in this case that "like watching paint dry" pace leaves what could have been a good, maybe even classic film as just "a well-done suspense drama with some light supernatural overtones." With an acceleration in pacing at roughly midway through the film, and the addition - there was a multitude of opportunities for it - of significantly more supernatural content, this would have been a rip-snorter of a horror film that could have made some real tracks in the American market both financially and critically.

Even though as a guy it takes an effort to warm up to the setting of a girls' ballet school, the story is very strong - even excellent - and makes the film worthwhile independently of the horror/supernatural factor, as a study of jealousy vs. self-confidence, subterfuge vs. honest effort, and irrationality vs. reason.

The one weakness I had a little trouble with was the mentally-handicapped student, Hae-Ju, who plays a pivotal role in the story - the fact that she could be present at the school at all. The idea of of a mentally handicapped student being enrolled in an elite and highly-competitive ballet school isn't plausible, unless academic admissions customs in Korea are significantly different than in America. Add to that the fact that she's quite overweight for a ballet student, to the point where, again, it's not plausible that she'd be accepted into such a school.

Those implausibility factors are puzzling in that they're unnecessary. Hae-Ju would have been more believable and a stronger character if she had been not mentally handicapped but simply unpopular, "nerdy," neurotic, or a combination of these, then had become progressively messed-up mentally as the tragic events and malicious treatment by her peers began to weigh on her. (There's some additional confusion that comes into play in the fact that Hae-Ju's character sheds, then regains weight fairly rapidly a couple of times as well as changes her hair color - again as intentional parts of the story - which when combined with scenes in dim lighting make it a little confusing at times to distinguish her from other students.)

Anyway, implausibilities aside, Hae-Ju makes the innocent wish for the dead girl she admired, So-Hee, to be returned to her, and the way the writers make that role play out is masterful: You're not really sure - and the film leaves it intentionally ambiguous - whether Hae-Ju has just completely flipped out and *thinks* she's So-Hee, or whether the spirit of So-Hee has actually merged with Hae-Ju, using her as her malevolent tool. In the hands of a lesser director that ambiguity would have introduced a mess of confusion to the plot, but in this case it not only avoids that trap but adds a nice depth of complexity both to the two characters and to the story as a whole.

It's perhaps unfair or apples-and-oranges illogical to compare "Wishing Stairs" to an American-style supernatural thriller like "Sixth Sense," "Stir of Echoes" or "The Shining," but you can't escape the feeling while watching it that it would have vastly benefited from a marked intensification of pacing and supernatural content as the film progressed. There are some very well-done scenes, like where Jin-Sung finally is confronted by So-Hee's ghost in her dorm room, then in her dorm room closet, that nevertheless fall a little flat - they play out so slowly that the audience has ample time not only to guess what's likely to happen next, but to run through memories of similar scenes from other films and guess at a number of possible outcomes. If the idea is to scare the wits out of people, the scares should be paced rapidly (and artfully) enough to where the audience has no time to anticipate them, much less to mull over other possibilities. Because nearly all of the horror aspect of the film is so muted by the pacing, "Wishing Stairs" could be more accurately classified as "a suspense drama with supernatural overtones," rather than an out-and-out horror film.

Bottom Line: On balance "Wishing Stairs" is a well-made movie that's definitely worth the trip, but disappointing for fans of solid, squirm-in-your-seat fright fests.


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