Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Cho EK
First released in 1998, the Whispering Corridors film series opened new horizons in the Korean horror film genre. It has portrayed the teenage girls’ life and hardship in Korean school system, and became a classic K-horror. The first two movies of the series, in particular, are considered monumental. It has also launched the careers of stars such as Choi Kang Hee, Park Jin Hee, Park Ye Jin, Gong Hyo Jin, Kim Min Sun, Song Ji Hyo, Seo Ji Hye, and Oh Yeon Seo.
The films in the Whispering Corridors series do not attempt to evoke visceral horror; instead, the movies are steep with gloom and sorrow. One can point at the series’ peculiar mood as the reason for its long-lasting popularity, although there have been ups and downs along with the sequels.
Whispering Corridors (1998)
Not many imagined that the movie would spawn sequels as late as 2021. Whispering Corridors is a box office hit and a critical success for its familiar theme of a high school haunted by a student’s ghost and the critical perspective to the competitive education system that only stresses good grades. The movie takes place in an all-girls high school, where students are favored based on their grades and backgrounds, and there is a great tension surrounding the identity of a girl who died nine years ago. The movie’s tagline, “Do I still look like your friend?” and its final scene in which the ghost jumps closer to the camera in the hallway became so popular that they still are being parodied to this date. The movie was remade in Indonesia under the title, Sunyi.
Memento Mori (1999)
Memento Mori (Whispering Corridors 2), co-directed by Kim Tae Yong and Min Kyu Dong, is considered one of the top-quality works among the franchise. Whereas its prequel closely followed the conventions of a horror film, it produces a unique tension with its dreamy, sentimental atmosphere. Also, the movie depicts a same-sex relationship, a taboo subject at the time, to grapple with the teenage girls’ vulnerability and the repressive school culture. Hyo Shin’s recitation of her lengthy improvised poem during class leaves a lasting impression; it begins with the line, “Nobody is there. There is nobody. But there isn’t. No, is there? There isn’t.” Although all its cast won the Best New Actress awards in the 36th Baeksang Arts Awards, it failed to attract a large audience, presumably because of the lack of anticipated horror.
A conventional and trite film, but it still keeps up with the genre’s appeals. This movie unfolds the dreadful consequences of Jin Sung and Hye Joo making their wishes on the stairs in a campus building; Jin Sung is a ballet student who can never beat her best friend for the best dancer title, and Hye Joo is ostracized because of her timidity and looks. The movie toned down on social criticism and focused instead on the individual student’s cravings, distorted by jealousy, admiration, and a sense of inferiority.
It is a movie in which one can listen to a dead person’s voice. We have besties again here, and the horror story begins when their powerful bond starts to crumble. It attempted to take a slightly different path from its prequels by adopting the ghost’s perspective, who is murdered without understanding why; she partners up with her best friend, the only one who hears her voice, to investigate her reason for death. Kim Seo Hyung, who starred in the sixth sequel recently, played the music teacher with a keen interest in the victim. Like the second work in the series, this movie also hinted at a queer theme.
A Blood Pledge (2009)
A Blood Pledge marks the tenth anniversary of the series’ theatrical release. The main theme is the clique culture among high school girls. It investigates their tendency to always hang with their group, be it on their way to school, study, or the bathroom. The horror begins when the teenage girls make a promise to be together when they die. Unfortunately, its storyline and the horror effects fail to keep up with the quality of its prequels in the series.
The series returned to screens with the 6th movie after 12 years since the last prequel was released. Contrary to its prequels, the upcoming film focuses on a teacher instead of students. Eun Hee, who returns to her high school as a vice principal after having forgotten her past memories, suffers from mysterious hallucinations eventually to discover the school’s secret. Also, the movie attempted to intersect Ha Young’s narrative with Eun Hee’s, who had been stigmatized as a problem child even though she is actually a victim, to portray how merciless humans can be. From midpoint, the movie turns into condemning societal evils to the point that it appears farfetched, understandably because the movie was inspired by a real-life incident. As a result, the movie fails to draw sympathy towards the suffering that continues from past to present.
Editor Hong Hyun Jung: K-content guide who publishes various articles for people to enjoy Korean movies and dramas deeper and richer. I’ll introduce you to the works that you can laugh, cry and sympathize with.
Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.