In returning to one of my favorite genres of horror, the Asian horror film, my girlfriend and I watched the first in a string of popular South Korean horror films set in the Asian all girls high school setting. In this 1998 film, right after the restraints raised after the censorship that held down filmmaking in Korea, this movie, at its best point, raised issues about keeping down a populace of people. The physical and emotional abuse felt at this school of depressed teens created an environment for horror. Not that this film is based on fact, but this dated film from a country barely scraping the surface of horror is a good first attempt.
Let’s summarize. This movie focuses around the lives of three senior students, Young Jae-Yi, Lim Ji-Oh, and Kim Jung-Sook, three differing students who encounter a hanging suicide outside of their school on the first day of classes.
Discovering this recently deceased teacher brings up issues of what brought her to this end and who may be responsible. In the same vein of a former student’s death at the school, Jin-Ju, these girls must discover exactly what happened through a journal of Ju-Jin and her secret female lover in a school of taboos. The end may leave you shocked, but who knows? I didn’t really understand what was happening until it was explained to me.
The topic of this movie was quite interesting, but, for a first attempt it was a mediocre delivery on just exactly what was being examined in South Korean film. I’m proud to say for the South Korean population that, since then, there have been quite a few good Korean films that I am a huge fan of. (The Host, The Good Bad and Weird, and A Tale of Two Sisters – check out the review!) To discount this one as just a fluke would be folly, as its just a first attempt in what has turned into a long line of success. The franchise as a whole, I’m not sure about, but I will give this movie the review it deserves.
It’s been a while since I watched this, but there were a lot of genuinely good lines that stood out to me in this film. I would say this derived from a good script, and that’s probably where the creativity started. The journal and its function in the story created a voyeuristic look into the lives of the other students in the school that I found darkly interesting. The issue of lesbian love and experimenting in an all girls school creates a comment on Korean society and the repressed feelings of the masses. In what I could only imagine as a delving into the mind of a deranged sociopath, this movie follows two lines of plot. That of the past and present. When the two collide through the survival of a student lover, the movie takes on the horrific twist that leaves a jarring, supernatural feel that at the same time as it disorients, it poetically ends the film.
I can’t really comment on the acting as usual with a film with subtitles, but I suspect the acting couldn’t be half bad. The youth of the movie could have struggled, but coming from a society with strict schooling, it could be a releasing of some pent up energy. The suspense lags from time to time, but the dark and sinister nature of the film really carries it along. The ending, as I said, is quite strange. If you don’t see it at first, you may need to watch the last 15 minutes again. Otherwise, as it did with me, it may pass over your head. So enjoy, if you can, and give this first in a long string of suspense/horror films from the good ole South Korea a chance. I’d give it a solid 6.2 out of 10 for a first attempt.
January 7th, 2012 at 4:36 AM
Correction: There is no journal in this movie. It is in the implied sequel, Momento Mori. Sorry about that.
January 17th, 2012 at 9:32 AM
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