April 25, 2012

VOICE: WHISPERING CORRIDORS 4 (2005) - a bloody, ghostly mystery

(2005, South Korea, Yeogo gwae-dam 4: Moksori)

Fourth in the Whispering Corridors series, Voice has the most lavish budget so far and delivers a stylish, bloody ghost story. All five films are linked by similar themes rather than ongoing characters. Each is set in a girls’ high school ‘with a history’, the stories involving suicides, lesbian relationships, and hauntings. 

Whispering Corridors 
(1998) got the series off to a shaky start. But Memento Mori (1999) has become a favourite of South Korean cinema, as an excellent drama, with convincing naturalistic performances depicting school life. The arrival of a ghost character almost spoils the film by returning it to a more predictable story. It’s a good film, but not an essential horror. Then Wishing Stairs (2003) fell back on Ring for horror ideas and also failed as drama because of the lower standard of acting. Other Korean films, like Bunshinsaba, use similar story ideas to greater effect, if horror is what you’re hoping for.

Then there's Voice, another high point in the series, with fresh new ideas for scares, ghosts and twists. The close friendship of two schoolgirls is shattered when one of them disappears from the music room. The ongoing mystery is why and how...

There’s a bigger budget here for some unique visual FX flourishes. The cinematography is stylish and beautiful, adding saturated colours to some scenes, that defy the glassy cold look of the school. The cast are all excellent and the characters almost all women. The depiction of school life isn’t as realistic as 
Memento Mori, but Voice succeeds admirably as a ghost story, a mystery, and almost a slasher... with the added slant of having the ghost take centre stage.

There are some startling death scenes and extensive FX to depict the various complications of being dead, for instance a ghost being confined to the school building. These are ambitious and imaginatively done, but look more scientific than spiritual, as if the afterlife were a natural phenomenon.

It all makes for a very different and eventful ghost story, the modern design of the school building reinforcing that this has nothing to do with gothic. If you're after horror, this is the best in the series so far.

The back cover of the US DVD release promises a 5.1 mix, but there's only stereo on the disc, at the expense of the subtle but intricate sound design. Otherwise, this is a well-produced DVD, presented 1.85 anamorphic with great picture quality and well-translated English subtitles, though they're overlarge. I'd hoped for 5.1 audio, but also upgraded to the US DVD because my Thai disc had been censored, not for violence, but scenes of schoolgirls smoking!

The downside to the US DVD is the cover art (above) which is pretty stupid. If you're expecting the extreme horror depicted, it's not in the film and nothing to do with the story. 

There's also a four-movie boxset of the Whispering Corridors series released by Tartan in the UK, under the title Ghost School Horror, and the fourth film is unfortunately retitled The Voice.

The soundtrack of Voice is available on this Korean CD.

Here's an interview with one of the lead actresses and the director of Voice over on KoreanFilm.Org 

Here are my reviews of the first three in the series:

Whispering Corridors (1998)

Memento Mori (1999)

Wishing Stairs (2003)

Soon I'll review the fifth film Blood Pledge.

(This is an update of my review of Voice from April 2006.)

1 comment:

  1. I may actually check this out - despite the fact that I didn't much care for the other films in this "series."