With a rumour that a set of mysterious stairs leading to the dorms in an all girl's school has the power to grant wishes should the elusive 29th step appear for you, the temptation is too much to resist for several of the pupils. With good intentions in their heart, their wishes come true with terrifying consequences. Good friends turn against each other amid rivalry and unrequited love, and even in the face of death, the horror reality from their wishes comes back to haunt them. Be careful for what you wish, you just might get it.
Wishing Stairs is the final part in the High School Horror trilogy, with Whispering Corridors and Memento Mori being the first and second parts respectively. Part one was somewhat lacking in a lot of areas, part two had excellent character drama scenes, decent chills but a desperate anti-climax ending, however it was still better than its predecessor and that brought me to part three. Hopefully the trend would continue and this offering would be the best of the lot.
First off, and this is just an aside as it isn't really related to the film, but while I was watching Wishing Stairs I was amazed to see Jeon Ji-Hyun (of My Sassy girl fame) in the film! I hadn't heard anything about her being in this, which really surprised me as I would have thought someone would have mentioned it on one of the forums I read. But now I know what you are thinking - "She's not in this film, you idiot!" - to which you would be correct, but the reason I thought she was, was because of the remarkable similarity in looks between JJH and Park Han-Byul. Open up both of their actress pages on this site and you'll see a distinct similarity between them in the pictures. Park Han-Byul even does a lot of similar facial expressions and pouts like JJH does in My Sassy Girl which further solidified my belief that it was her to start with. So all this means that there is yet another Korean actress on my 'Extremely Fanciable' list!
Anyway, enough of that hormonal chatter, onto the film itself. The first thing that struck me about Wishing Stairs was the look of the film, in that it looked good. The sets had a rather eerie atmosphere to them, especially in night scenes, but managed to look less imposing during the day. At different points the school also managed to look remarkably similar to both the school in Whispering Corridors and Memento Mori. Either that is because a lot of South Korean schools look the same, this was a deliberate ploy by the film-makers to subtly 'borrow' some atmosphere from the previous films, or it was a coincidence. I prefer to believe the middle option. Whichever it was, the film benefited from having a good style and look, especially around the actual Wishing Staircase, that made the atmosphere more noticeable,
The people behind this instalment in the series have taken some note of the preceding films and made sure they didn't fall in the same trap - most significantly with the ending. Here it does not feel tacked on at all, from the way the film progresses and develops the ending is actually quite fitting, with enough of a scary chill to mildly satisfy. The film throughout isn't that scary, just the odd jump here and there and only a few other spine-tingling moments.
Alas it is not all good for Wishing Stairs. Despite learning from some flaws in the previous films, the scriptwriters appear to have ignored some of the strengths. The story is somewhat disjointed, with the relevance of some plot threads being a little confusing. The scenes jump about from one pair of characters to another, not allowing either's story to really shine through and captivate the viewer. Early on things are made a little ridiculous through a rather comical looking fat person, who is the only fat school girl in her class. What makes it quite comical is the fact that the fat suit being worn by the actress is so blatantly a fat suit, I found it hard to take the character seriously. If anything it reminded me of fat Monica from the US sitcom Friends. Supposedly as a result of the Wishing Staircase, this character loses all the excess weight practically over-night, something which doesn't really seem to bother or surprise most of her classmates. We see this character also taking a lot of pills at one point too, which led me to question was it the staircase that granted her wish, or was it some form of weight loss pill that she was taking that then had artistic license granted to it to allow over-night weight loss? Regardless, the staircase somehow does grant wishes as other characters find out, much to their own horror. It is the simple old phrase - "Be careful of what you wish, you just might get it." Of course, when people wish they don't always think that it will come true in the most horrible, evil, not-at-all-how-they-wanted-it sort of way.
With the disjointed story it is rather hard to develop any sort of feeling towards the film. Other than being quite attracted to Park Han-Byul, I didn't feel anything for any of the characters so wasn't as caring as you really need to be. I didn't understand the fat character's devotion and idolisation of Kim So-Hee, at times it seemed as though it was just there to make sure the plot lines could move along to their pre-decided conclusion. Yun Ji-Seong's change of heart and attitude towards Kim So-Hee also came about a little too abruptly for my liking. Kind of like the lesbian relationship in Memento Mori where one wasn't quite as comfortable as the other, the not-as-comfortable one still changed far too quickly.
Despite these flaws, there is still some decent entertainment in Wishing Stairs. When the chills start to kick in the quality of the film is upped a notch or two and scenes that appear later in the film which highlight a different way a previous scene is to be taken, thus changing viewpoints and opinions gives one of those "Ahhhhhhh!" sort of moments. The moment where the penny drops or the light bulb above your head goes "ding!" as it switches on. A thing like that makes all films fun and satisfying and in that respect Wishing Stairs does quite well. Not great, but quite well.
However the highlight of the film for me was Park Han-Byul. Maybe it was because I fancied her, maybe it was because she had so many mannerisms similar to JJH, or maybe it was a combination of the two and that she could also act quite well. It is possible my thoughts of "Oh, she's so cute..." did bias my opinion on her performance, but she had the look that was cute and fitting for the more emotional scenes, but also the look that could turn a little scary when needs required. One performance can't make a film great unfortunately, and Wishing Stairs is let down by several other factors. This is a shame as it is not the best of ways to finish off the trilogy.
Audio & Subtitles
The only original language option is the Korean DD 5.1. This is quite an effective soundtrack as the surrounds are used frequently throughout the film. It is most noticeable during the windy stairs scenes as the wind swirls all around the soundstage. More use of the surrounds for discrete sounds would have made it more effective, but what there is, is still good enough. It is clear sounding with deep bass where necessary.
The subtitles are of a very good quality too. There only a small handful of spelling and grammar errors throughout.
The film print is a nice anamorphic transfer and in all likelihood is a port of the Korean release. Colours are well produced with no evident bleeding, detail levels looked good and there was little in the way of speckles or other noise on the print.
DVD & Extras
This is a completely barebones release with no extras whatsoever. The DVD does come in an outer slipcase.
Hopefully the High School Horror series will finish here with Wishing Stairs as repetition in the plot lines is showing already. While it is not a classic series by any means, there are some decent moments contained in it. None of the films are must sees, Memento Mori has the best story, but is spoilt by its ending, Whispering Corridors I just did not care much for and here with Wishing Stairs you have some decent entertainment but with many obvious flaws.