A.K.A.: Girls’ High School Ghost Story
Original Korean Title: Yeogo Goedam
Directed by: Park Ki-hyung
Written by: In Jung-Ok and Park Ki-Hyung
Produced by: Choon-Yeon Lee
Starring: Choi Se-yeon, Kim Gyu-ri, Kim Yu-seok, Lee Mi-yeon, Lee Yong-nyeo, Park Jin-hie, Park Young-Soo and Yun Ji-hye

This is the film that started the Asian horror explosion!

So says the trailer for Whispering Corridors, a Korean film from 1998 that has since spawned two sequels. In an apparent drought of originality, Hollywood has been mining Asian horror recently. It is odd that they have not taken aim at this gem, because its American horror influences are clear: the long Steadycam shots of empty halls (reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining), the slasher movie style killings, the bleeding walls that hark back to the original Amityville Horror. But the film accomplishes something Hollywood horror rarely attempts anymore: it has real and believable characters.

As the movie opens, teachers are being murdered one by one at a secluded girls’ high school—cruel teachers that have been terrorizing students for years. Who is responsible for these deaths? Is it one of the girls that have been harassed? Is it the new teacher—a former pupil who witnessed a horrible accident 9 years before? Or is there some supernatural force that walks these halls at night?

High school can be a scary place to begin with, but co-writer/director Ki-hyung turns this school into Hell on earth. By day, its teachers are strict and abusive—striking students hard enough to give them split lips and bloody noses. By night, its dark catacombs could be hiding anyone or anything. Thanks to the director’s eye for composition, and the editing skill of Ham Sung-won, every frame of this movie seems drenched in menace. The acting by the entire cast is top-notch. These girls convincingly portray a wide range of emotion: joy, fear, sadness, and above all…loneliness. At its core, this is a film about the need we all have to make some sort of connection with others—the simple need we have for a friend. And nowhere is friendship more valuable than in high school.

While not as frightening as some of the films that followed it, Whispering Corridors draws you in and keeps you interested to the final shocking frame. If you are a fan of Asian horror, or someone new to the genre and looking for a place to start, this is the movie for you.

3.5 out of 5 stars