FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 22, 2009

Day 22: "It's the hour of dogs and wolves."

A word of advice to the fine folks at Genius Products (because I'm sure they're reading this): I understand that you're trying to horn in on the Asian Horror market dominated by Tartan/Palisades. That's swell- more product for we humble horror hags is always welcome. However, as I noted in my review of Black House earlier this month, you sure are mis-marketing this shit. The covers are super duper misleading, which is only going to drive away customers for two reasons: 1) People expecting something extremely violent based on the Photoshopped grotesqueries you slap on the box are going to be disappointed when the films aren't extremely violent, and 2) People are going to be driven away by those covers because they don't want to watch something extremely violent (or the same old same old that Asian horror is getting a rep for)...and those folks are gonna miss out on some really fantastic Voice (2005). I mean, get a load of the DVD cover art:

I don't know what kind of impressions that gives you, but I certainly wasn't expecting a terrifically moody and artistic examination of friendship and death...but that's what I got.

Young-eon (Ok-vin Kim) decides to stay late into the night at school to rehearse her singing; her best friend Seon-min (Seo Ji-hye) reluctantly leaves her behind. Before long, Young-eon hears a voice harmonizing with her. She promptly gets freaked out and decides to split, but a shadowy figure in the hallway stalks her and kills her- with a piece of sheet music. Yeah, it sounds ridiculous, and it probably is, but by the next scene the implausibility is forgotten.

The next day, Young-eon is missing from school, but she's trapped in the school as a spirit. Confusion turns to slight relief when she figures out that although she can't be seen by anyone, Seon-min can still hear her. The two continue their friendship as best they can while they try to figure out who killed Young-eon and who's behind that voice she heard the night she died.

Differences know, living status put a strain on their relationship. Young-eon is intensely jealous when Seon-min becomes friends with the class weirdo, Cho-ah (Cha Ye-ryeon), who can also hear Young-eon's voice. Secrets are revealed and nothing ends up the way you think it's going to, especially if you think Voice is simply going to be another run-of-the-mill ghost girl movie.

Though it's not billed as such, Voice is actually the fourth film in the Whispering Corridors series, all of which are related only in that they're set in South Korean girls' high schools. Voice is a strong entry in the series; while not the most violent, it's the most thought-provoking. It's a frank look at the relationships between young women, which often skirt the line (or dart back and forth over the line) between friendship and romance. The idea that we keep loved ones alive after they're gone as long as we remember them is heartbreakingly familiar to anyone who's lost somebody. When Seon-min begins ignoring Young-eon after she decides that all she can do is move on and live her own life, Young-eon literally begins to lose her voice as she starts to disappear. Voice packed an unexpected emotional wallop, bolstered by strong performances across the board.

As a horror film, it's not the slam-bang, visceral flick that Genius is pitching it as, but there's definitely plenty of blood and chills to be found. However, the action doesn't truly pick up until after the one-hour mark; the film never dragged, but it's more akin to a drama with tinges of horror than the other way around. I wasn't bored even for a moment- I was sucked into the mystery and loved the movie for what it was.

The color schemes, at times, recalled another school-bound horror film: Suspiria. Yeah, I said it! While Voice isn't nearly as stylized as Argento's masterpiece, director Ik-hwan Choe and cinematographer Yong-Heung Kim clearly have an eye for art.

I loved this. In fact, it was so good that I can only imagine how bad a Hollywood remake would be.


LB said...

I'm really glad to see this movie get the attention it deserves. It isn't the scariest out there, but Voice definitely belongs up there with other Korean drama-horrors (stuff like Tale of Two Sisters and Memento Mori, where the horror is used to augment the emotions). Schoolgirl horror is a weird subset of film that I can't really see translating well into a Hollywood context.

Stacie Ponder said...

Agreed RE: schoolgirl horror done Hollywood style. I loved the portrayal of the girls in this film: it was nice to see teenagers acting like real people, not a bunch of walking one-liners. Though there were some charmingly goofy scenes, they were refreshingly mature. AND LIKABLE. It was the anti-90201/Gossip Girl.

CashBailey said...

Yeah, this is a good flick. Not as great as some of the other WHISPERING CORRIDORS movies (like MEMENTO MORI), but it's still miles better than the rip-offs like BUNSHINSABA.

clifford said...


Have you seen Whispering Corridors 2: Momento Mori? It's really great. Not so super scary but just an incredible film experience. My personal favorite.

Stacie Ponder said...

Not yet, but I've heard it's fantastic. Might try to squeeze it in before the end of the month...