Life is what you'd expect for young teenagers in this seemingly normal private all-girls school; that is until the start of the new term. A past alumni returns as a teacher and she strikes up a new friendship with two very different students, as a horrific series of events unfolds around her. A teacher is found dead, apparently having committed suicide, and circumstances that inextricably link both the past and the present, begin to unveil themselves. As the body count rises, the memories of the deaths unleash the echoes of ghosts down the corridors.
I feel I have to point this out now, before I do a review on the film, but the picture quality of this release is very poor.
Whispering Corridors is the first instalment in a High School Horror trilogy that also features Memento Mori and Wishing Stairs. At the moment the series has stopped at a trilogy, but like with virtually all things, people never know when to stop so I imagine there will be some more made at some point. Having yet to see the next two films, I can't say whether that is a good or bad thing as far as this series goes. Anyway, who cares about the other films at the moment, its time to write about this one.
Whispering Corridors starts very promisingly, with a very eerie school and a teacher making some sort of discovery which remains a mystery to the viewer. With the usual sort of soundtrack that accompanies suspense horror films (you know the sort of thing I mean - quiet with a constant varying bass line, high pitched violin shrieks, sudden loud noises designed to make you jump) the tone and mood is set, albeit in a very clichéd way, for what is about to take place, namely the death of the teacher who made the mysterious discovery. In honesty, some of the effects used did make the film seem like a cheap 80's slasher type film, but some cheap 80's slasher type films have been damn good, so as I continued to settle down into the suspenseful and ghostly atmosphere that had been created, I was looking forward to the rest of the film.
Slowly, but surely, that feeling faded. The reason being that the momentum, suspense and energy the film had managed to elicit was ditched in favour of slowing proceedings right down to focus on the characters. Having the film concentrate on the characters is not the complaint I'm making here as without good characterisation the film would never be able to rise above mediocrity. The complaint I'm making is that it seemed to me like everything else stopped while the characters were introduced and gradually developed. There were attempts to keep the eerie atmosphere, as one character - Jung-Sook I think her name was - has the stereotyped strange girl look to her... i.e. she has an emotionless and infrequently blinking face, responds rather slowly and generally acts rather mysteriously. However, with it being a very stereotyped character I found it rather laughable and didn't help to restore or add to the mood.
The other characters are not the epitome of originality either. There's the school kid who has the ability to do anything, but doesn't know what she wants to do with her life and is beginning to develop a minor rebellious personality as a result; the good school kid who knows what she wants to do, but has been put down a lot with regard to her abilities; the quiet and shy school kid who follows the more popular person around; the bully school teacher, who does nothing much but criticise his pupils, and the new teacher who used to be a pupil at the school, who wants to solve the mystery of what is going on. Throw all of these characters in the mix and it is pretty easy to guess who the ones are that are going to bite it. Or so I thought. Some I got right, but the film didn't exactly follow the typical clichés that I was expecting, so I got some wrong too. This is due to the surprisingly, and annoyingly, low body count. After the promising start to the film, I thought there would be a lot more of the same, but getting bigger and better as the film progressed, but again I was wrong. The slasher aspects only appear a few times, with other moments going for the eerie character development and other scenes going for the more suspense filled atmosphere. It was generally quite easy to tell what sort of mood was in store for a particular scene, thanks to the backing soundtrack. Whenever things were to be suspenseful there would be a constant and varying bass line, progressing into the higher pitched shriek as it got scarier. In the calmer, character moments there was usually silence or generally happier music.
At times it felt to me as though the film didn't know exactly what it wanted to be and as such no real area is developed satisfactorily. Whispering Corridors contains a reasonably decent storyline that hasn't been given the freedom to breathe and grow as well as it should have been. With the uneven pace and the frequent change in style and mood, the whole story lacks the presence that grabs the viewer's attention and holds them to every subtle or blatant play on screen and keeps them focused. The majority of the film progressed slowly, which left me hoping that someone else would get bumped off very soon to liven up the visual entertainment. I actually felt quite bad for the film when I realised that I was thinking this, as while all the plot-threads were being drawn together and the mystery was coming to a close, my interest was gone.
What did interest me, though, was what it must have been like to go to school in Korea. Granted this is only a film, but discipline seemed really excessively extreme. Whether Whispering Corridors is a fair reflection on the attitudes and manners of teachers on their students is unknown to me, but from other reading I have gathered that it caused quite a bit of uproar in its home country. One thing's for sure, I would not have wanted to go to school in that sort of environment!
Whispering Corridors was a film that on paper seemed quite promising. It had a decent story and a setting that people could relate to, but it failed on many of the film criteria. It is rather disjointed, stereotyped and clichéd in places and - worst of all - slow almost to the point of boring. It is not a good sign when I a film elicits boredom feelings from its viewer and unfortunately Whispering Corridors did just that. I just hope its sequels prove better.