Saturday, April 27, 2013

Editorial: Whispering Corridors In Retrospect

The iconic Whispering Corridors series is a benchmark for Asian horror - particularly, Korean horror. The films are not directly related, and only share similar themes and settings. Some implement deep drama and supernatural elements to create an effectively haunting experience, others use shocking jump-scares and ghosts to create a temporarily frightening experience; regardless, they all focus on ghosts and all-girl high schools. In retrospect, Whispering Corridors is an amazing supernatural experience.

Starting with Whispering Corridors, the audience is thrown into the action during a frantic phone call revolving around the return of a deceased student. The film is creepy thanks to its slow-burning pace and its dense horror atmosphere; the story gets under your skin. It's a bit tamed compared to other ghost stories as in it's not an over-the-top ghost film with jump-scares at every corner.

Memento Mori, the second installment, uses its drama wisely, creating authentic relationships and implementing a bleak, compelling storyline. The drama that goes on between the characters works so well; you really feel the pain and frustration, and that makes the ending - the entire story, in fact - so much more chilling and haunting. The blend of a strong drama presence, and a ghostly third act reminds me of films like The Exorcist.

The series continues with Wishing Stairs. The concept of stairs that grant a wish if a 29th stair magically appears is a interesting concept; the consequences of using these supernatural stairs are equally frightening. This film loses some of the drama from Memento Mori, but retains some of the atmosphere from Whispering Corridors and fleshes out its horror elements. What I mean is: this film feels like a traditional horror film - the type of horror film you've likely seen before. It is a bit uneventful, but it does feature an amazingly quirky performance from An Jo, which I really enjoyed.

The series' strongest outing is Voice, the fourth installment. From a story and technical standpoint, Voice excels beyond the previous installments. The Whispering Corridors formula is better than ever as it balances drama and horror well enough to create a very terrifying and effective experience. And, it implements audio and visual scares, which adds some variety to the film. The smooth storytelling, the superb cinematography, and the great music add the film's immersion.

The final film, A Blood Pledge, feels very similar to Wishing Stairs, as it feels like a traditional horror film. However, A Blood Pledge shortens its runtime and adds in a plethora of scares, which were somewhat absent in Wishing Stairs. The blood-drenched ghost is more visible and evident than ever before, and the violence is turned up a notch. As a straight horror film, it lacks the benefits of the implementation of real drama elements, but it works very well to kill a night in a frightening way.

In retrospect, Whispering Corridors is an amazing supernatural experience. Every film in the series offers different types of frights - whether they are traditional jump-scares, or slow-burning, impactful frights. The settings and the characters always have a sense of authenticity, and they make for perfect haunting sites and victims. The stories' themes of friendships, jealousy, bullying, and taboo relationships are also relatable, which I believe added to the immersion of the series; you've probably seen these in your high school. The films all have their own flaws, despite the positive attributes in this article. However, the experience is still worth having for horror fans, especially fans of foreign supernatural films.

Oh, and all of the films share the same message: High school is hell - for the living and the dead!

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