Wishing Stairs Review
Number three in the Korean Yeogo Goedam series, Wishing Stairs follows Whispering Corridors and Memento Mori in a similarly unrelated fashion (these aren’t direct sequels as such) yet occupies the same thematic ground. Once again we’re at an all girls’ school and once again there are ghostly goings on to be had. The key difference is that ballet plays a prominent role, thus forcing unflattering comparisons with Dario Argento’s Suspiria. Yet this proves to be the least of its problems; more important is the fact that it compares so unfavourably to the previous films in the series.
Of the two it is Memento Mori (arguably the strongest instalment) which is the more influential. Wishing Stairs borrows its central lesbian relationship, its primary attention to character, non-horror dramatics and pace, and its pyrotechnic finale. Yet ultimately it’s too messy; beyond establishing the central concept – a semi-Faustian staircase which grants wishes if a 29th step appears – the filmmakers seem incredibly muddled. The fact that our key trio of characters are, respectively, a lesbian couple and a far girl is nothing more than a ploy to cover the inherent flimsiness. Essentially, they’re nothing more than tokenistic attachments, opportunistically hoping to flirt with “big issues” yet fatally lacking dramatic weight. Indeed, the actresses are soon left floundering with nothing to do. Our fat girl in particular (her obvious prosthetics furthering the lack of realism) comes as a woefully misguided creation: is she mentally retarded, comic or psychotic? Even Jo An, who portrays her, seems confused.
Such a lack of detail, or rather attention to detail, ultimately leads to the impression of complacency. You get the feeling that there was no need for a coherent plot or characters as long as there were enough jolts to populate the trailer. After all, it has the success of Whispering Corridors (Korea’s biggest box office success during the year of its release) and Memento Mori to coast on. Admittedly, it doesn’t try too hard on the directorial front, and therefore doesn’t make itself an easy film to thoroughly dislike, but then it doesn’t really try hard at all. Essentially, Wishing Stairs is a cash-in – and had it not been it’s unlikely we’d have ever heard word of it.
As with the other Yeogo Goedam efforts, Tartan are issuing Wishing Stairs as an NTSC-PAL transfer. In truth it’s not the worst that I’ve seen – the quality of the print means that the clarity is still generally fine, plus we get the film in its original aspect ratio of course (anamorphically enhanced) – but it’s nonetheless blighted by overly saturated colours during the brighter scenes, a murkiness to the darker scenes and numerous instances of highly noticeable ghosting. As for the soundtrack here we find the usual Tartan selection of DD2.0, DD5.1 and DTS mixes. Given that the original is the 5.1 option, the stereo choice is effectively pointless. That said, all three are effectively without difficulties, even if there’s scant difference between the DD5.1 and DTS mixes. Indeed, whichever you go for is likely to be down to personal preference rather than any flaws pointing us in a particular direction.
As for extras here we find the standard trailer reel for other Tartan releases, plus a handful of brief featurettes. These cover, respectively, the ballet elements, the fat suit prosthetics worn by Jo An, the sketchbooks drawn by her character and the scoring. In each case they follow the normal featurette pattern: interviews with key members of the cast and crew and intermingled with excerpts from the film and B-roll footage. And in each case these are fine as far they go. The problem is that the disc lacks the vast majority of extras found on the Korean Region 3 offering of the disc (as reviewed here by Kevin Gilvear). Of course, those extras all came without English subtitling, but then this surely granted Tartan the opportunity to offer the superior release. As it is the disc as a whole is satisfactory at best. (Note that the subtitles on the various featurettes are optional.)
Last updated: 14/07/2018 13:29:24