Welcome back to the eleventh day of my Korean horror film recommendations. Today I’ll be recommending a film that is widely regarded as one of the most influential Korean horror films, as it was part of the explosion in Korean cinema following the liberalisation of censorship in the aftermath of the end of the country’s military dictatorship. Today’s recommendation is Whispering Corridors.
Whispering Corridors contains strong social commentary about the authoritarianism and conformity in the South Korean schooling system. The kinds of images we see in popular dramas or films are quite glamourised, and more often than not complete and utter conformity is prioritised over freedom of expression. Students go to school for much longer hours than we do here in the UK, and their workloads are greater too. My Korean teacher has even likened being a student in South Korea to having a fulltime job. This many seem a little off topic to you, but these facts are a corner stone of this film, and the pressures of being a student in South Korea play a large part in the plot line.
This film is set in a typical all-girls high school, and it starts in the school the night before the first day of a new term. A teacher, Mrs Park, seems to have discovered something strange concerning a pupil who had once attended the school – Jin Ju. Jin Ju had committed suicide in the school nine years previous and it is rumoured that her ghost still haunts the place. Mrs Park attempts to call one of her colleagues, Eun Young, who also used to attend the school and was consequently Jin Ju’s best friend. Mrs Park tries to tell Eun Young that despite Jin Ju having died nine years before, somehow she is still attending school. However, before she is able to tell Eun Young anymore, she is attacked and murdered, and left hanging in the school yard.
The next day, the body is unfortunately discovered by three students – Jae Yi, Ji Oh and Jung Sook – and despite being traumatised by what they saw, they are cruelly told to keep quiet about what they saw in an attempt to quell any rumours. Eun Young takes it upon herself to look into what has been going on as strange omens start to appear and more people begin to get hurt. Despite not wanting to believe supernatural forces are at work here, the longer she investigates, the more it seems that Jin Ju might be involved in some way.
What I loved about this film was its stark presentation of a more real-to-life showcase of the South Korean schooling system and the impact it has upon the students and teachers alike. Throughout the film we see parallels being drawn from Eun Young’s time as a student to how Ji Oh and the current students are dealt with. At times the real horror of the film seems to be how little things have changed in nine years; people seem destined to carry out the same mistakes as the people before them.
Whispering Corridors inspired a number of other Korean horror films to be set in all-girl high schools, and even has four direct sequels (which have no continuing plot or recurring characters). I highly recommend this film, as despite having seen movies that are a lot scarier, the fact that the real horror lies in real life rather than the supernatural was actually pretty scary in its self.
I recommend this film to anyone as I think most of us will enjoy the compelling and thrilling storyline, but if sensitive issues such as suicide bother you, then best to avoid Whispering Corridors.
I’ll see you guys again tomorrow for another recommendation!