This year, we here at Snowblood Apple have had the interesting experience of watching the very best and the very worst of two very similar films from the fairly limited school ghost genre – Whispering Corridors, from South Korea, and A Frightful School Horror, from Japan – and awarding the honours for once to the Korean movie, which poops all over the pitiful Japanese attempt from a great height.
Directed by Park Ki-hyung, Whispering Corridors (aka Girls’ High School Ghost Story, or in its original Korean form, Yeogo Goedam) was released in Korea to a wave of controversy and attempts at censorship. Indeed, the film portrays an all-female school filled with such brutality, sexual abuse and violence directed by teachers at pupils, the national school board tried to ban the film’s release outright. Thankfully, they failed, and so the movie went on to become one of Korea’s biggest box office successes, spawning a later sequel, Memento Mori (aka Whispering Corridors 2, or Yeogo Goedam 2: Memento Mori), an equally brave and controversial film dealing with many of the same themes as the original movie, but also with homosexuality in single-sex schools.
This film shines through the usual glut of glib teenage screamers partly because it works on so many levels: socio-political commentary, an understanding of the natural hierarchical order within schools (all-girls’ schools, in particular), urban legend and even a philosophical look at the nature of friendship. It also works on a purely entertaining level, with a tight script, great quality acting and directing, atmospheric cinematography and, most importantly, a fascinating psychological ghost-mystery-whodunnit-thriller-suspense story, crammed with red herrings and false leads, and also with a sad, moving, and terribly bleak undertone.