Whispering Corridors Review
The Jookran High school for girls is about to start its new term. On the night before, Mrs. Park (a.k.a. Old Fox) sits in her office looking at old school records. Upon making a discovery concerning the death of pupil, Jin-ju that happened nine years ago she promptly calls and tries to speak to a fellow colleague - Hur Eun-young (Lee Mi-yeon). As she tries to explain about her new found discovery and its apparent connection to a series of school hauntings, she is murdered and left hanging in the school court yard.
The next day, three girls make the chilling discovery. The new class monitors, Youn Jae-yi (Choi Se-yeon) - a shy withdrawn pupil, Lim Ji-oh (Kim Gyu-ri) - a talented, outgoing artist and Kim Jung-sook (Jun Ji-hye) – the unpopular one, are first to notice Mrs. Park's body. This then affects each girl differently. As rumours fly about Old Fox and her cruelty toward students, things shake up even more. Ji-oh happens to have a psychic ability and is coaxed into contacting the spirit world. She is soon stopped by Mr. Oh (a.k.a. Mad Dog) who is a tough and cruel teacher with a penchant for young girls.
The arrival of new teacher, Eun-young sparks a personal investigation as she tries to find out more about these unexplained killings, the surrounding hauntings and if her old best friend, Jin-ju can be blamed. Eun-young's visions of her past become stronger and she soon sees some of Jin-ju's traits in other students. Revenge is on the cards but why?
The High school horror film isn't a particularly new concept but Korea seems to have embraced it at a time when Japan and Hong Kong appear to have calmed on the subject. Granted, 1998's Whispering Corridors was made when this genre was all the more popular around Asia and perhaps that is why this is one of the better efforts, before the idea of milking a concept became too much to bear. This film spawned two follow up features that were not so much sequels but re-workings of a particular theme. Sadly there wasn't much of a direction in which they could be taken and Whispering Corridors remains the best of the three.
What this film succeeds in doing is to put forth, first and foremost the issues of Korea's educational system, a subject which has been tackled several times before and is clearly a cultural sore point. What followed on from this was an outcry from Korean schools, saying that the film was unjust in its depictions of a harsh system. However, the cries did not stop its theatrical run and subsequent success. It also escaped further scolding by having these themes placed underneath the surface of what was to be a tale of horror and suspense.
Obviously important in a horror film, this aspect works well enough though I can't say the result ever truly horrifies the viewer. Much of the film is slowly paced, set around character conversations until a moment when something bad is going to happen - at which point it's rather tame. Very much a dark film Whispering Corridors is blessed with decent production values and if anything its atmosphere tends to work better for it than the occasional spoonful of gore....
.... Which is where the viewer either takes to the film or doesn't. The most hardened horror fans would see this as nothing special but to dismiss a film on its lack of horrific value would be unfair. Torn between its psychological leanings and a need to shock, the balance of horror is just right in my opinion because any more would have been unnecessary, not that it leaves much to the imagination as it is. In terms of execution there is a distinct lack of originality, with a ‘seen it all before’ feeling sinking through the viewer as the ghost is easily amused with the simplest of killing techniques.
In the end I find this to be a film that I'm indifferent to. By no means is it the worst of its genre, it was successful enough to spawn two sequels but this isn't exactly an achievement to be proud of. This was the first and best of the High school trilogy (at least I hope it stays at just three) so it's perhaps the best one to check out. I'm pretty sure the days of being shocked out of your wits have long since passed, it's a rarity anyway. Still, it's a night in.
This film is only available on DVD with English subtitles courtesy of a Thai DVD from Manpong. There is no worse way to see this film than here.
It took a very long time before we even saw this film make it to DVD with English subtitles and when it finally arrived the result was disappointing. So here, instead of the original widescreen aspect ratio we are presented with a full frame transfer that offers dark and murky colours, while the source material is poor with plenty of dirt and scratches visible throughout. The material used to create this transfer simply cannot have been sourced from the film’s actual distributor, as the overall result is no better than a poor VCD.
The only good aspect of the picture is the optional English subtitles which are of a decent standard.
Complimenting the full frame transfer is a tinny 2.0 Korean language track. I've heard many decent 2.0 tracks but this one is very poor. There is also a 2.0 Thai dub.
There is nothing here. Chapter selections and sound options are about as special as it gets.
Taking inspiration from so many yet failing to leave any impression of its own, Whispering Corridors is a good film and nothing more.