October 04, 2007

WISHING STAIRS (2003) - WHISPERING CORRIDORS 3

WISHING STAIRS
(2001, South Korea)

Frustrating and not recommended

To complete my reviews of this haunted schoolgirl series, I’ve watched the third Whispering Corridors film, Wishing Stairs. It was a real slog to get through this one. There's some nice touches, but there’s too much wrong with it to recommend it to anyone but completists.

The actual pivotal setting of the wishing stairs (a similar location was glimpsed in the first film) is a reasonably spooky premise. If you wish hard enough as you climb the 28 steps, the 29th will magically appear and your wish will be granted. Of course, you’d expect that nothing like this in a horror film is without a price, and when the DVD has a spooky cover you’d expect the price to be something nasty.


But what actually happens in the film is very tough to follow - not because of an innovative narrative structure, like Memento Mori, but because the storytelling is quite poor. There’s a long slow build-up as we meet several schoolgirls, two of which are vying for a single place in ballet school. So-hee and Jin-sung are very close friends (but not that close). The other main character is an eccentric, overweight girl seemingly unconnected to the ballerinas. The overplaying of both her eccentricities and fatness for comedy effect, really doesn’t work.


For nearly half the film, all we get is several feeble scares, all caused by the girls creeping up on each other. Then the supernatural element finally kicks in - or does it? The fat girl suddenly loses weight after saying that she used the wishing stairs, but we only have her word for it, and we also see her gobbling diet pills.

One ballerina wishes for first place in a competition (to win the place in ballet school) and shortly afterwards an accident cripples her main rival (again this is not a supernatural incident). As she uses the stairs, she appears (from a distance) to hover on the non-existent 29th step – which has been portrayed, in posters, as a girl hanging from a tree at the top of the steps, or a noose, but these doesn’t appear in the film).


Then, confusingly, and offscreen, her friend dies. But we only see the body in a nightmare – we’re not even sure it happened.

It's not until the fat girl takes centre stage and wishes for the dead girl to return, that something definitely spooky happens, I think. But during this wish, the 29th step appears to be real and not invisible. The resulting haunting could also be a result of her dementia.

The continuously baffling storyline, and the feeblest motivation for a murder (“you’re in my chair!”), made me suspect that we were in the hands of inexpert filmmakers. With important events not being shown, choppy editing, particularly towards the end, all topped off with a painful rip-off of the TV scene in Ring, indicated a script scrabbling for ideas.


Looking around for help from other reviewers to explain the plotline confirmed this. There was no one who could describe the story precisely, step by step, it's so muddled. The only person I could find who was able to explain the characters’ motivations was someone on IMDB who’d watched all the extra documentaries on a DVD! But the film should tell the story, not the bonus material.

It’s a shame that this is easily available on DVD in the US and UK, but Voice (part 4) is not. Possibly the poor returns from 3 has made 4 a harder sell.

So, please, watch all the other films in the series before going near this one. As I've said, you can watch any of the films on it's own, and in any order. South Korean sequels are apparently related by theme, rather than storyline (like Chan-wook Park's Vengeance trilogy).

WHISPERING CORRIDORS - Black Hole review here
MEMENTO MORI - Black Hole review here
VOICE - Black Hole review here

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3 comments:

  1. This is the first movie from the Wishing Stairs series I saw, it isnt my favorite but I liked it. I think I liked it more than Memento Mori, which I considered more of a drama than a horror movie. As I recall, the fat character, Hye-Ju was sort of in love or admired the character that died, Soo-hee maybe because while all the other girls made fun of her, she was nice to her. She wished her to come back which she did. I dont understand why the other girls were so mean with Jin-seong, she didnt push Soo-hee, she tripped. Just a question, Who put the piece of glass on Soo-hee's ballet shoe???

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  2. It's been over 2 years since I wrote the post above. I have to make a correction, I wrote Wishing Stars series instead of Whispering Corridors series. And it seemed to me that Soo-hee and Jin-seong were close but Soo-hee loved Jin-seong more than Jin-seong loved her. In all the movies there has been either a hint of lesbianism.

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  3. I watched this movie first before the others and I really liked it. It is a bit complicated but if you had paid attention during the film then the plot will be quite clear. Both So Hee and Jin Sung are close friends although So Hee might had liked her more like a lover. The first half of the movie was showing about their relationship and how it slowly turned sour as Jin Sung was jeolous of So Hee's better dance skills. As for Ha Ju, the reason for having her in the movie was to make a love triangle among the three girls since it was clear she admired So Hee. Jin Sung made a wish to be able to participate the dance competition but she got it when she accidently caused So Hees injury , leading her to commit suicide, thus leaving Jin Sung to participate the competition. Ha ju wished So Hee spirit back as she missed her and wanted her back. However, So Hee took this as a opportunity to reunite with Jin Sung and processed Ha Ju in order to be close with Jin Sung. This led to Ha Ju killing herself by locking herself in a burning room as she is sick and tired of being a puppet for So Hee. So Hee kills Jin Sung in the end so they could be together in the underworld. And Castlerock, about the glass shard in So Hee shoes, if you have watch the film, Jin Sung is jeolous with So Hee and threw her empty orange juice bottle in a fit of anger. She then put a glass shard into the ballet shoes So Hee gave her and gave the shoes back to So Hee. Unaware of the glass shard, she puts it on during the competition .

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