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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Whispering Corridors 5: A Blood Pledge Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: When four girls plan to commit suicide together, and only one follows through, dark secrets are revealed as the dead girl's ghost wants the others to join her.

Review: Well, we've come to the final entry (as of 2017), and, sadly, we do not end on a high note. Of course, the potential for a great movie was right there--all the "Whispering Corridors" films having creative premises. The problem with this entry is that it is edited together sloppily, and the story builds toward a laughably idiotic reveal that will have you rolling your eyes. Making matters worse is that the director, or someone on the set, really wanted this to be slasher-esque which does not mesh well with the style of this series. I don't know what went wrong, however, I can at least say "A Blood Pledge" was still better than part 2. So there's that.

In, somewhat, of an attempt to change things up, the girls are at a Catholic school this time around--not that this contributes any unique ideas. At first things start off intriguing with the girls making the titular blood pledge--that they will commit suicide together and that if anyone backs out they will be cursed to die afterward. Minutes later though...only one girl is shown to die, and the mystery of the film is figuring out why the other three backed out and what was the true motivation behind the blood pledge to begin with. Right out the gate, I feel like this was the mistake of the story. Rather than having only one die, there should have been only one survivor. Oh well. Moving along...rumors run rampant around the school about why the one girl committed suicide since the other students know nothing about the pact the girls made. This whole rumor mill plot point goes on too long and eats up a lot of the story unnecessarily. I get that the filmmakers want to convey this notion of petty gossip, but we've put up with this bullshit in every goddamn film thus far! Change shit up.

Unfortunately, the ghost in this entry is fucking stupid and annoying. Instead of going after the main cast, she spends time killing side characters pointlessly. Hell, there is one chick that appears to die, and we don't know who the fuck she even was. Is this really a tale in need of a high body count? Worse yet, the ghost is implied to be somewhat good, hence, making her random, side kills that much more baffling. Come to think of it, this one chick, while a total bitch, was kind of defending the dead girl and yet the ghost still killed her?! Okaaay. These zany antics bring me to another point: there are too many godforsaken background characters chewing up screen time. Who the fuck are any of these extras? And I'm not talking fun extras popping up for 30 seconds like part 4--I'm talking extras who get whole lines of dialogue and appear almost as the secondary cast. Then we have the main chick actually having a boyfriend (a first!) and his mom adding even more useless characters to the mix. It's too much. This shit needs to be consolidated. If this weren't enough, we get a dose of my favorite, schizophrenic-chic editing. We're talking the camera going apeshit, bizarre transitions, cuts to flashbacks out of nowhere, and all manner of shenanigans. My goodness.

And what is the big secret the girls have been keeping? What is the point to any of this? The group never wanted the fourth girl to come in the first place, and the original intention was just to let the main girl die; her motive being she's pregnant and...can't cope(?)...I guess. Wow, what a selfish bitch. Anyway, things went wrong with this fake suicide which leads to the group turning on each other once the ghost is after them. But why did they want the main chick to die? Arrrghhh...jealousy over that dumb boyfriend and the one chick wanting to have high grades. Yes, really! That is a pitiful payoff. The one bitch wanting everyone to die should have been the pregnant one which would have at least made her anger and jealousy believable. You know what, all of these characters are insufferable bitches. Fuck 'em! The only likable person is the ghost's sister who is also not presented properly with a wannabe possession subplot that goes to nowhere-land. Oh, and shocking no one, there is a moronic final zinger with the ghost going after that boyfriend but with a new haircut somehow. They have hairdressers in Korean hell?!

Seriously, what happened here? This started off with so much potential and could have been amazing. The core plot line is imaginative and opened up all manner of possibilities to take the mystery. Admittedly, the filmmakers do a good job of building up the hype to the reveal...but the payoff is unforgivably not worth it. The actors are okay I suppose, but the characters are unlikable and the ghost's presentation is nonsensical. The cast is too big and the background fodder getting killed is a poor substitute for creating legitimate scares. Of course, I can't forget the shit editing since it's an ever-present problem that persists during the entire running time. Overall, this is just a mediocre film that did little to stand out in this series. I think this is probably one of the big reasons why we may never get a part 6.

Notable Moment: When the boyfriend's mom randomly dies by head explosion. This was so randomly stupid and is never acknowledged again. What happened to her car or body? Why was nobody trying to find her as we see the boyfriend at the end, seemingly, oblivious to her death? Ugh. Shit writing.

Final Rating: 5/10

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Whispering Corridors 4: Voice Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The spirit of a girl seeks the help of her best friend in order to uncover the truth behind her mysterious death.

Review: With part 4 they decided to change things up considerably and almost created the best entry. Instead of a plot set into motion surrounding a suicide, we finally get a murder and the mystery as to who was responsible and why. Adding to this much needed change in plot devices, we finally see a school that isn't completely full of hardass teachers and overworked students. It was nice to see students having fun and dealing with school in a normal way--the girls simply being teenagers as you'd imagine them to be. However, the most interesting change of pace is that we have a main character who is actually a ghost. With so much going for this entry, the potential appeared limitless. Unfortunately, everything comes crashing down with a horrendous twist and an ending that completely ruins the main character and the story as a whole. Wonderful.

So...this time around we are at yet another school that could have easily connected to the previous entries. Some maintenance guy mentions that the school is new but the piping and boiler room looks rotten. Precisely! Say that one of the old schools was demolished to make way for this new one but that the spirits of the former carried on. But, nope, let's just make standalone stories. Moving along...we meet the main chickadee, Young-eon, and her best friend, Sun-min, shortly before Young-eon is murdered. They imply immediately that the murderer is another ghost, however, I wish they kept it more vague so that the audience could suspect various classmates or staff. But, yes, there is a ghost already haunting the school that kills Young-eon, turning her into another ghost that is stuck haunting the school too. Due to their strong friendship, Sun-min is still able to hear Young-eon's ghost speaking but can't see her. Unable to figure out what happened, Young-eon and Sun-min proceed to unravel the mystery together. This aspect is the best part to the film, because it is reminiscent of the classic whodunnit style yet takes a unique spin on the genre. Later on, the most likely suspect, Young-eon's music teacher, is killed as well which only deepens the mystery.

The horror elements are not sacrificed either since the first ghost is still roaming the halls, seemingly possessing supernatural powers of sorts. This addition to the plot makes the events feel time sensitive--as if the mystery needs to be solved before the ghost can strike again. But just when things are really picking up, the cracks in the story emerge. First, it is proposed that Young-eon might only be remembering what she wants to remember. This plot element could work, however, they do not handle this material properly. We are introduced to another girl, Cho-ah, who can naturally sense ghosts, and she tells Sun-min to merely let everything go. I think some of these plot tangents probably made more sense in the script, with this idea of Sun-min suddenly not trusting Young-eon, but the direction in the film doesn't really convey this. Besides, it's only been a few days and best friends wouldn't turn on each other that quickly no matter what truth they discovered. Regardless, this brings me to the big twist and ridiculous ending. As it turns out, Young-eon is actually supposed to be evil...I guess...and forgot about this fact. We are shown that she drove her dying mother to suicide, tried to get the ghost to disappear from existence originally, and she was the one who killed the music teacher. Furthermore, it was this attempt to get rid of the ghost in the first place that caused that ghost to kill Young-eon. Finally, embracing her dark side once she remembers it, Young-eon kills Cho-ah and magically possesses Sun-min permanently. One problem: you can't establish all damn movie long how nice Young-eon was and how deep her friendship was with Sun-min! How the hell would that same girl be all sentimental with an old walkman, hide her evil side from Sun-min (since apparently third grade when they met), and do anything remotely thoughtful as we see from Sun-min's flashbacks of their friendship?! Argh...what a disappointment and a lame payoff. Hell, if Young-eon wanted to get rid of the ghost, hence, knowing of its existence, then why would she have been all scared when it appeared at the beginning of the movie?! What the fuck were they thinking?

If it weren't for the utter shit ending--and had the conclusion actually delivered something satisfying--I could have seen this eclipsing "Wishing Stairs." Instead, due to the complete betrayal to the audience, I want to say this entry is a tad weaker than part 1. For me, endings can fuck up the rating I give, so I do want to stress that others may actually appreciate this ending or prefer it. Taking the other film making aspects into account individually, then "Voice" is still a strong story with numerous, cool ideas worthy of respect. The mystery is quite intriguing, and the actresses are believable with the extras feeling realistic due to the little details they do. The scares, while few in number, are decent enough with plenty of instances of creative lighting and camerawork. Lastly, the friendship displayed was heartwarming (before being ruined), and the way that the story fixates on a character's voice and singing was presented remarkably well. I do still enjoy this installment a lot, but it's hard to recommend when I know how cheated people might feel once it's over. Oh well.

Notable Moment: When Young-eon and Sun-min seemingly go to elevator hell. It was a pretty creepy concept, although, I'm not really sure what they were trying to demonstrate? Is it supposed to be a vision of the afterlife or a kind of dimension that the ghosts reside in when not seen? Nevertheless, I loved that foreboding darkness and the way the filmmakers presented a vast sense of scope.

Final Rating: 6/10

Monday, May 15, 2017

Whispering Corridors 3: Wishing Stairs Review


Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Rumor has it that if you climb a certain staircase, counting the 28 steps aloud, then a 29th step will appear and your wish will be granted.

Review: Okay, I take it back, this was better than part 1; I must have been snorting coke and imagining parts from "Memento Mori" mixing with "Wishing Stairs." More or less, every aspect has been improved upon over part 1, and, it goes without saying, "Wishing Stairs" is leaps and bounds beyond part 2. Funnily enough, I noticed "Memento Mori" has the highest rating on IMDb of the five films. Pssshh...it would. Anyway, "Wishing Stairs" brings us an original and creative premise combined with excellent cinematography and a dreary tone. The story can slip into bouts of incoherence, however, it never ceases to engage the audience. Keeping the characters limited, and the plot heavily focused, also helped elevate it over the nonsense with part 2. Likewise, the ending this time around is fitting--though, I would have liked a bigger payoff after an intense climax. I want to add that they still blew a chance to connect this to part 1. I mean, there is even a scene in the first entry where we see a stairwell similar to the one featured in this installment. Ugh.

This time around we have two best friends training to be ballerinas, So-hee and Jin-sung. When So-hee appears to be a shoo-in for a prestigious position at a Russian school, unspoken jealousy and rivalry emerges to pull the girls apart. I have read countless reviews ponder whether or not these two characters were also lesbians similarly to part 2, but I just don't see it. Look, I've seen my fair share of questionable Korean girls in films, but these two simply appear as good friends with absolutely no scenes of romantic tension or any ambiguous looks, dialogue, or interactions. If you want to see them as potential lesbians that's fine, but I think that's just a viewer seeing what they want to see. Moving along...while we see the jealousy growing with Jin-sung, a third character, Hye-ju, serves to introduce the audience to the wishing stairs urban legend: if you climb a particular stairwell, counting each of the 28 steps aloud, then a 29th step will appear and you will be able to have any wish granted. Apparently, as the only fat chick in the school, Hye-ju, tests the stairs and wishes to be thin. I love how no one is shocked that she lost the weight practically overnight! Realizing she stands no chance of beating So-hee, and seeing the power of the wishing stairs firsthand, Jin-sung climbs the stairs and wishes to win. The wish is granted by making So-hee become crippled during an accident involving Jin-sung, however, later, So-hee is driven to suicide as well. With So-hee now completely out of the picture, Jin-sung ends up winning that position with the Russian school.

Taking up the scares a notch, Hye-ju, obsessed with So-hee, wishes her back. Now as a vengeful ghost, So-hee semi-possesses Hye-ju and appears as a phantom to haunt Jin-sung. What works so well is that both So-hee and Jin-sung are likable in their own way. So-hee is an all around sweetheart--really cute too--and Jin-sung's envy is understandable. Jin-sung didn't realize the consequences of her wish, did not intentionally want harm to come to So-hee, and was genuinely regretful for the rest of the film. By the end, when Jin-sung tries to wish So-hee back to being dead and So-hee has her revenge, you feel bad for both of them. Enhancing this resolution were some impressive aspects to the cinematography. The entire picture has this dark and damp coating, establishing a moody tone that matches the characters' emotions. On top of that, there were basic set choices that looked good and added a layer of detail that is appreciated. Finally, I loved the idea behind the ghost's general concept despite the lack of usage. A ghostly ballerina is great, and something such as the shot of her bloody foot dancing through the hall with a piece of glass stuck in it--that works! It's just a shame they didn't further capitalize on everything they had going on here--like they were in a rush to get through the story or something. On the plus side, the pacing is slick for a story that is essentially building up to the ghost's appearance and revenge.

 Actually...she might be one of the cutest ghosts we've seen over the years.

The only major drawbacks tend to surround the Hye-ju character since it felt like the filmmakers weren't fully certain on how to make her relevant to the action. Furthermore, the story does go off the rails a few times as if momentarily dipping into psychological horror rather than the clear depiction of supernatural horror we are dealing with. Nevertheless, and in spite of the shortcomings, this was way better than I remembered; in fact, it was pretty damn good at times. Sure, this isn't exactly going to keep anyone up at night, but the scares were decent enough to get the job done and the ghost's design was somewhat original. The heart of the story is where the fun is at since you have a combination of rivalry, jealousy, and friendship colliding. Throw in an unsettling urban legend, a dab of wish-granting, and you've got a recipe for a solid sequel that easily stands by itself.

Notable Moment: When So-hee appears in that ghostly, ballerina form. A respectable makeup effect coupled with a creepy concept, and, yet, they only used this form for a couple of shots...? Huh? What a waste.

Final Rating: 6.5/10