Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Film Review: Wishing Stairs (2003)

Wishing Stairs
South Korea/2003
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

At an all-girls boarding school, if you go up the 28 stairs while counting aloud, and find a 29th stair, a fox will grant you a wish. Kim So-hee and Yoon Jin-sung, a couple at the school, are competing for a single spot in a prestigious Russian ballet school; So-her is the best bet and seems to have the win locked down. However, Yoon Jin-sung, jealous and desperate, finds the 29th stair and wishes to win the competition; but, the wish comes with a chilling price...

Wishing Stairs is a ghost/revenge story. The concept of the "wishing stairs" is interesting, and the scenes are creepy as they slowly, hauntingly walk up the steps. The first half of the story takes the time to introduce the characters, the dilemma, and explain the wishing stairs; the second half turns into a traditional ghost story. Unlike the previous entry in the Whispering Corridors series, Memento Mori, this story focuses more on horror than drama. The ghostly presence is stronger and more consistent than before, particularly during the second half. So, the relationship between Kim So-hee and Yoon Jin-sung, and the other characters and actions (like the bullying) feel a bit shallow due to the stronger focus on horror; it's never fully explored which lessens the impact; I can't say I'll have trouble sleeping tonight. The fact that the story felt stretched out doesn't help, either. There are a few great jump-scares, and some very creepy imagery, as well.

The storytelling in this film is easy to follow compared to Memento Mori; It follows a linear path throughout most of the film and almost everything is explained clearly. The acting is great from the entire cast. I particularly enjoyed An Jo who plays a eccentric student; her facial expressions really capture her emotions well, you can really see when she's anxious, frightened, or happy. The film is shot well, great cinematography throughout. I also enjoyed the exceptional music; it perfectly matches the mood and it's the definition of a haunting soundtrack.

Overall, Wishing Stairs lacks impact; it has a handful of frightening moments and some creepy imagery, but the inflated runtime makes the film feel uneventful and the lack of character makes the story less effective than it could've been. Basically, it's a good horror film. I recommend a purchase for fans of Asian horror or the franchise, a rental otherwise.

Score: 6/10

Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some brief nudity.

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