We love Halloween here at The DreamCage and we love the countdown to it even more as, every day in October, David Ames opens a window (well, writes an article) in his Hallow-vent Calendar of Asian horror films. His choice for Day 26 of Hallow-vent is The Ghost ...
Find the full calendar for Hallow-vent 2020 here.
It’s that time of year again: the birds are chirping, the leaves are falling, there’s a chill in the air, and there’s a pandemic raging. All of these elements come together to make a fantastic holiday season, full of candy, and popcorn, and gory, bloody, creepy films that cause existential crises and fits of catatonia.
This year I am looking at a subgenre of horror that, although it is centralized to a continent, is very diverse in subject matter and approach: Asian horror. I LOVE Asian horror. It may be that the original Ringu played an important part in my young life, causing me to be both fascinated and horrified by this type of horror.
While I was used to American horror movies, particularly slasher franchises like Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th, I was not prepared for the sheer amount of difference between American and Asian approaches to horror. While most of what I had seen of American horror dealt with blood, gore, murder, and a substantial amount of nudity and sexual content (my 12-14-year-old self was always appreciative), Asian horror was much more subtle and disturbing.
Maybe it was the newness and disconnection of the culture. Maybe it was the language barrier. Maybe it was the seeming focus on folklore that wasn’t present in the west’s presentation (at least from my limited experience), but from the moment I saw Ringu, I was hooked.
This year I wanted to approach Asian horror that was not as famous as those I had seen previously and so I chose movies that I had never seen, or even heard of for the most part. There is only one film on the list that I was familiar with beforehand, and I hadn’t watched that since high school.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the strange mix of subtlety, disturbing imagery, and slow-burn that is this year’s Hallow-vent calendar.
We have all seen those, at this point, classic horror films that begin with a group of high school students that eventually become hunted by something or someone. It was basically the roadmap for mainstream horror in the 90s and early 00s. Parallel to the American horror fodder that I was used to, unbeknownst to myself, South Korea was doing the same, beginning with the Whispering Corridors series, and, like the American genre, exploded with hundreds of similar stories and concepts. Today we look at one of the films from that era: Kim Tae-gyeong’s The Ghost (also known as Dead Friend).
This film begins as so many from this time do: a group of high school girls are messing with a Ouija board, jokingly summoning a ghost, but their fun is interrupted by an older sister forcing them to quit. As a joke, the younger sister says she hopes the ghost takes her sister. In the next scene we see just this happen.
Years later, we see a young woman named Min Ji-won, who suffers from amnesia, and cant remember anything major about her past. She is a sophomore in college, and a loner, who lives with her mother and only has one real friend: Park Jun-ho, a student who seems to harbor an unrequited love for Ji-won. As her days pass, Ji-won begins to experience nightmares about a ghost, and strange ties to a water haunting, although Ji-won herself is an accomplished swimmer.
One afternoon, Ji-won is confronted by a strange woman named Yu-jung who claims to have been her friend in high school. She warns Ji-won that “Su-in” is coming for them all. Ji-won’s memory begins to return, and she remembers that she, Yu-jung, another girl named Mi-kyung, and Eun-seo (the girl we saw die in the beginning) were all a part of a very Mean Girls-esque clique who was relatively awful to a poorer student, Su-in, whom they took advantage of and manipulated.
When more tragedy befalls the old friend group, and Ji-won experiences even more terrifying dreams and paranormal phenomena, she strikes out to discover what truly happened and find a way to stop it.
This film, while rather cliché in many ways, did take a turn I didn’t see coming in the end, complete with possession and a story-defying plot twist that strangely works. I can’t really say a lot for the performances. They are good for the film, but nothing truly stands out as incredible. This film simply exists in the same realm as so many others of similar ilk. The only thing setting it apart is that twist, and that alone is worth watching the film for.
If you enjoy classic Asian or American horror and aren’t looking for anything mind-bending or hard to follow, this is a good choice. It is a solid piece of horror that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but does add another spoke.
Follow David on Twitter @TheDavidMAmes
Image - IMDb