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Jin-Ju never left
on August 20, 2007
School can be hell. So it's a perfect spot for horror movies that focus on the symbolic supernatural problems of teenagers.
In the case of the superb "Whispering Corridors", the setting is a Korean girls' school. While the finale is a bit drippy (literally), director Park Ki-Yong never resorts to gore or cheap scares -- just a lot of creepy visuals, shocking attacks, and a double twist ending that you won't see coming.
As the movie opens, tyrannical Mrs. Park (Jin-hie Park) is making a call to the youngest (and pleasantest) teacher, Eun-Young (Mi-yeon Lee) -- about Eun-Young's best friend Jin-Ju, who died nine years ago. Then she's yanked up by an invisible force, and is found hanged by students the next morning. Eun-Young is left to ponder Park's final words: "She never left."
Soon gruesome events become more commonplace -- student Ji-oh (Gyu-ri Kim) notices a strange bloodstain over her desk, photos are altered, and the student-molesting Mad Dog is savagely murdered. Eun-Young starts sifting through clues -- and the abandoned art shed where Jin-Ju died -- to figure out where the ghost will strike next. But Jin-Ju is far closer than anyone has suspected...
"Whispering Corridors" isn't really a horror movie as much as a ghost movie -- it prefers to creep you out, rather than freak you out. In fact, most of the horror comes from how the students are treated by the callous teachers, to the point where it's hard to get TOO upset when Jin-Ju kills the people who tormented her in life.
That seems to have been Park Ki-Yong's intention, but she doesn't neglect the ghost angle. There are plenty of creepy moments here -- creaky floors, quiet corridors, a man being murdered by a curtain, or a painting of a bloody dead woman. What's more, Park can disturb us on a deeper level, such as the frenzied flashbacks to poor Jin-Ju being bullied to death.
For all the quiet scariness, there are moments of rapid, brutal violence as well (Mad Dog being strangled and bashed into a window). The only weak spot: the final confrontation with Jin-Ju seems weirdly soppy.
This is very much a character-driven movie, and the actors do wonderful jobs: Mi-yeon Lee as the bright-eyed Eun-Young, who is haunted by guilt over her best friend's unhappy life and tragic death, and Gyu-ri Kim as a current student who resembles Eun-Young during her younger days. The girl who plays Ji-oh's shy pal does an excellent job as well.
"Whispering Corridors" is a rare type of ghost story -- slow, eerie, and prefers to haunt you instead of freaking you out. Definitely a must-see.