Friday, 17 April 2015

April Apparitions: Whispering Corridors (1998)

Whispering Corridors (1998)
Director: Ki-hyeong Park
Starring: Kang-hee Choi, Gyu-ri Kim, and Min-jung Kim
Running Time: 145 min


  I'm pretty excited to check this out, although, I'm unfamilair with the director and the cast but this film does come well recommended by various websites, books and it is even on a recognized list of "100 Korean Masterpieces", so that means this has got to be good right.  Of course it does, so I'll pack my lunch and head out to the haunted school, hope I'm not tardy. I don't feel tardy.  

   It is a dark and stormy night and Mrs. Park, a school teacher is staying after class, alone, investigating a mysterious pattern that is connected with the suicide of one of her students, Jin-ju, nine years ago.  She collects some yearbooks and is finally able to put the terrifying riddle together but just has she does, she is confronted by a ghost!  The ghost using it's spooky powers, hangs Mrs. Park by the neck until she is dead in her classroom and drags her down the hall to a more suitably burial place.
  The next morning, it's the first day of school at the Jookran High School For Girls and art student and part time psychic, Ji-oh Lim arrives at school early to find her nerdy awkward classmate, Jae-yi Yoon, waiting for her outside the school.  Jae-yi Yoon is excited because they are the first monitors this week and that this is going to make her and Ji-oh Lim best friends, and it's the first day of school and it's their final year and...., Ji-oh Lim just puts on her headphones and heads up to class with Jae-yi Yoon following behind still jabbering.  When Ji-oh Lim and Jae-yi Yoon get to class, they find that the strange and grade driven Kim Jung-sook is already there at her desk.  They say good morning to Kim Jung-sook and go to their desks.  However, when Ji-oh Lim sits down, she find fresh blood pooled on her desk.  So, she grabs a mop and bucket and heads outside to fill up the bucket.  When she gets outside, she sees Mrs. Park hanging from the second level bridge!
  Already freaked out by finding their teacher dead hanging from a bridge, the girls are then threatened and screamed at to keep it a secret by their vice principal, Mr. Oh (aka Mad Dog).  The girls agree to keep this suicide to themselves and go back to class.  However, this death isn't just affecting these girls but a new teacher, Eun-young, starts to have memories about how abusive and awful, Mrs. Park (aka the old fox) was to her and her late friend Jin-ju.  She remembers how Mrs. Park would belittle them, hit them and make their lives miserable if they stepped out of line.  Ahh, school memories, good times.  Anyway, Eun-young starts to look into Mrs. Parks' mysterious suicide and finds a connection with her old friend Jin-ju and the rumours that ghosts haunt this school.
  However, while Eun-young is investigating and time goes by, the girls are being abused and screamed at by their new substitute teacher Mr. Oh.  He even finds a painting of the the hung Mrs. Parks, that Ji-oh Lim painted because she couldn't get the image out of her head.  So for defying his order and not immediately forgetting about finding her dead teacher, Mr. Oh punches Ji-oh Lim square in the face and kicks her out of art class.  Sadly, that is not the only issue for Ji-oh Lim because her psychic powers are giving her the heads up that a specter may be haunting her and her friends and they don't know who could be next to be attacked by this apparition.  Can Ji-oh Lim and Eun-young find and stop this ghost before she takes anymore people to the other side or will this spirit room the halls of Jookran High School For Girls forever?


  I liked this, there were some very cool visuals and the story was pretty interesting.  This was one of the first films that came out in 1998 during the explosion of new Korean cinema, after the end of the country's military dictatorship, that was not heavily censored.  Director Ki-hyeong Park (Secret Tears, Gangster High) took full advantage of this new found freedom and made not only a fascinating ghost story but was able to show the harsh conditions of the South Korean educational system.  In a lot of instances in this film, the teachers and vice principal are a lot scary than the ghost and one would hope that since this film was released, that school system in South Korea would have changed some of their disciplinary methods.
  But the film isn't all knuckle rapping and creepy sexual innuendos by middle aged men.  It does have a supernatural feel to it with a vengeful ghost.  One of the things I dug the most about the film was that it introduced the ghost element right away during the films opening credits.  Director Park uses some good visuals here and I love that the spirit has to drag the corpse down the hall, leaving a trail of blood behind.  Just gorgeous to watch!  Also, the ending, has a classroom dripping in blood, which is probably my favourite part of this whole movie.  It looks really is amazing and leaves you with a really creepy tone at the end. 


  Although I thought that this movie was enjoyable, there are a few things that could have made it better.  I don't think that there are enough ghostly scares throughout the film.  Once the initial spirit murder happens, the ghost takes a back seat to what director Park is trying to say about the school system. Which as I mentioned before is cool and scary in its own way but I don't think Park balances it proportionately and I think fans looking for a solid ghost story may become bored of the school antics and find it a little disappointing.
  Also, I'm torn because there are some very cool elements to the ending and there are some not cool things about it too.  Visually it looks great but I think some of the reasoning for the ghost to be there either isn't completely expressed properly or it's a little bit lame.  I may have to see it again, but the ending didn't do it for me but what do I know, it's a very popular series and there has been 4 sequels after this film.


  With that said, this is still an enjoyable ghost movie that any fan of Asian horror will probably dig.  There is an interesting and seemingly complex story that uses an spirit to expose a harsh school system and it has a bizarre twist at the end.   As well as some incredible visuals that will set the hairs on the back of your neck on end.  So, if you're looking for a film about a ghost haunting the halls of an girls school, than you may want to check this out.


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