Korean movie directed by Ky-heong Park, AKA Yeogo Goedam. According to its theatrical trailer, this is the movie that started the “Asian horror revolution” (now that’s a movement I can get behind!). Eun-young is a new teacher at the private girls’ school that she once graduated from. She’s haunted by the memory of her friend Jin-ju, who died at the school nine years ago—shortly after Eun-young, prompted by mean teacher Mrs. Park, snubbed her. Meanwhile, outcast Jae-yi has made friends with popular girl Ji-oh. Eun-young notices parallels between their friendship and her friendship with Jin-ju, and when people who have mistreated the two girls begin dying off, Eun-young wonders if Jin-ju has returned.
Something interesting about the film is that it’s a bit teen angst-y, but not in a whiny John Hughes way. The movie highlights how brutal school can be, especially Eastern schools. The girls have a massive workload and are pressured to have perfect grades and to make the school look good. The instructors verbally, physically, and even sexually abuse the students. The entire movie takes place at the school, which emphasizes how much of their lives are devoted to working hard and studying (and we as viewers are stuck at school with them). Look how huge the school is, and how tiny the people are by contrast:
Even when Jae-yi and Ji-oh are hanging out, they’re on school grounds. Ji-oh sees a corpse, and deals with the shock by painting a picture of the event, explaining that sometimes “school is a horrifying place.” Accordingly, her teacher Mr. Oh destroys the painting and calls her a “psycho.”
Often while watching any foreign movie I feel a little culture shock. I also experience what I think of as WAOTS (what an odd thing to say) moments. This movie has more of those than most. There’s the amusing: [about fellow student Jung-sook] Ji-oh: “…she’s possessed.” Jae-yi: “Possessed?” Ji-oh: “You know, by the study demon—one with a low I.Q., though.” Then there’s the bemusing: “It’s not that I don’t want to call the spirits with you. It’s just so childish that I don’t want to do it anymore.” And my favorite: “You can’t call it suicide just because she hung herself.”
All jabs aside, this is one of my all-time favorite horror movies. It’s a tense, compelling watch. The acting is decent and the special effects are great. It’s a little predictable, but you have to give it points for originality, since after all it’s the Che Guevara of Asian horror. Long live the revolution!