In Whispering Corridors, beautiful and talented ballet student called So-hee is in love with her best friend. Unfortunately her friend Jin-sung doesn’t return her feelings; moreover, she is massively jealous of her friend’s success as a ballerina, particularly as it seems certain So-hee will win a scholarship. So-hee realises that something is wrong with her friend and confronts her, they argue and Jin-sung accidentally pushes her down the stairs. So-hee loses the use of her legs as a result and commits suicide. Another girl from the school, Hae-ju, misses So-hee, who was the only person to have any time for her. Hae-ju climbs the wishing stairs and wishes for So-hee’s return. But when So-hee returns, she comes intent on vengeance.
Ji-hyo Song is great as Jin-sung. She is a little annoying when she is going through her jealous stage – but then she is acting like a spoiled schoolgirl, which is exactly what she is supposed to be. I would have liked to see a bit more fear from her when So-hee returns though – it is a slightly unrealistic storyline (that’s me being sarcastic), so any help to make it more believable would have been welcome. Han-byeol Park was also good as So-hee, even though she spends a lot of the film covered by a tonne of make-up to make her look ghostly and creepy.
This is all looking promising, until Hae-ju appears on screen. Actress An Jo may not have been given a lot of choice about how she played the role, but whatever the excuse, she is terrible. Hae-ju is very much on the plump side, but I suspect the actress was forced to wear a fat suit – it looks amazing unrealistic anyway. If you have seen Monica from Friends in that episode when she is at High School – that is exactly what this actress looks like. Even worse, she has a very strange, half-witted way about her, which, rather than inducing sympathy, just made her seem really annoying. I can honestly say that her performance totally ruined the film for me. It turned it into a bit of a pantomime rather than a ghost story – a huge mistake on the part of the director, Jae-yeon Yun.
Wishing Stairs is the third of a series of films called the Whispering Corridors. However, there is no need to watch the films in order; or indeed to even worry about watching the others in the series, because each is a stand-alone film. What they do have in common is that they are all set in high schools and tend to deal with typical teenage traumas like bullying and revenge. This particular one deals with the issues of bullying and, to a certain extent, having a crush on someone and the effect it can have.
There have been any number of Korean films that have similar storylines to this one. I wish I could say that this had something about it to make it stand out, but I can’t. It isn’t a bad film, but there isn’t anything particularly memorable about it and I suspect that I will end up remembering it purely for the pantomime performance of Hae-ju – not exactly what the director was hoping for, I’m sure. Certainly I saw the first film in the series about a year ago and can now remember very little about it. It is, of course, in Korean with subtitles; however, this is not a disadvantage for me at least – the subtitles are clear and very easy to read and, like many films of this genre, there isn’t a great deal of speech.
On a more positive note, the special effects are good and So-hee really does transform from being a very attractive girl to an ugly-looking ghost. There are also a couple of really gory scenes – the best one being one of So-hee’s victims, who was murdered and made to look like a statue, but then starts to decompose with maggots coming out of every orifice when she is moved. Obviously if you don’t like that sort of thing, then stay well clear, but then you shouldn’t be watching in the first place. There is a rating of 15 for the film, so it is not appropriate for young children. However, I suspect that the film will appeal greatly to teenagers, particularly because it is set in a high school. And it isn’t all bad news – there is a very strong moral to the story – don’t bully your schoolfriends or they might come back and haunt you!
On the whole, this film is enjoyable. I might not be a teenager, but there is something about films set in schools that I like – particularly when bullies get their comeuppance. In fact, if it hadn’t been for An Jo’s dodgy performance, I would probably have been a lot more complimentary about this film. However, she was awful and ultimately, although I quite liked the film, it is basically a mish-mash of several other films. It might be a good idea for keeping older teenagers occupied during the summer holidays, but I can’t see many adults being all that impressed unless they are new to the genre and/or keep expectations low. I will recommend it, but it is probably worth waiting to see if it comes on television rather than purchasing the DVD, particularly as it is hard to get hold of a cheap copy.