September 13, 2007

WHISPERING CORRIDORS (1998) first in the series

(1998, South Korea, imdb: Yeogo goedam)

First in the series of haunted schoolgirl movies

Reviewed from a Region 3 NTSC Hong
Kong DVD

ght at the start of the Japanese horror-boom, Whispering Corridors was made the same year as Ring. It proved that South Korea was also going to be a major contender in what was going to be an Asian horror-boom.

It also set some of the trends in the genre before everyone, South Korea included, started recycling the elements of Ring over and over again.

Whispering Corridors gets it's gloves off before the opening titles come up, with a Ring-strength scene. A teacher, trying to convince someone on the phone about a discovery, is attacked by a ghost and killed.

Next morning, three teenage schoolgirls are the first to discover the body, but it looks like a suicide.
The head teacher, Mr Oh, is keen for rumours and gossip not to escalate. The girls are already talking about a vengeful ghost being responsible.

South Korean High School girls in trouble!

The film is very critical about various problems in the school system, portraying some teachers as slobs or bullies, and admitting that some of the students can be less than keen about schoolwork, foul-mouthed and interested in sex. This honest depiction of teenage life was very popular with audiences in South Korea, but would not be at all likely in a mainstream Japanese film for instance.

The horror is far more adult than, for instance, the Japanese Haunted School films, because characters die, and they die messily and tragically. Indeed, one death scene looked so choppily edited that I thought it was censored. I'd like to compare the Hong Kong DVD that I watched, to either the US or UK releases.

The films are also quite hard to classify, switching between horror and drama.
After the scary introductory scene, the story settles down for a while into an involving melodrama, as two unlikely students become friends because of a common enemy - the violent teachers - particularly the head, nick-named 'Mad Dog'!

The acting is certainly much better than your average horror film, and the film has been carefully crafted,
colourfully shot, elegantly scored, to rank it as a good 'international film' to represent the country's film-making at its best.

With an almost all female cast, and the few men in the film violent or at least short-tempered, this would be labelled as feminist in the eighties. But it's not clumsy, preachy, or contrived. It's insular though, like all good horror movies. We don't see anyone go home. We never leaving the school setting, so there's a feeling of being trapped in the building.

Director Ki-hyeong Park, went on to make another horror film, Acacia, but none of the sequels. Here's an interview with the director about the influential film.

The three subsequent sequels are only linked by the theme - hauntings at girls' schools -not by directors, stars or characters. Therefore, each film can be viewed on its own, and in any order.

Almost the only link that I noticed, was one scene in Whispering Corridors where two girls walk up some leafy steps to the old school building, which looked remarkably like the iconic setting of The Wishing Stairs, the third film.

Soon I'll cover the rest of the films in the series. Voice, the fourth, was reviewed here, though the fifth film that was rumoured to be in production hasn't yet materialised.

So far in the Whispering Corridors series...


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1 comment:

  1. Great review! It's Marcus from Evil Dread writing, I'd like to get in touch with you but couldn't find your email address on your site so please send it over to me at info[at]