Tag Archive | Korean horror

Korror: D-Day

Have you ever studied beyond your limits, overdosing on caffeine and choosing not to sleep? After a few days, you wake up and look into a mirror, only to see panda eyes stare back. Or after consuming too much caffeine and not enough food that you become overstimulated and jittery? How competitive are you with your grades and classmates? How far are you willing to go to get into the best school possible? Sabotage? Murder? Lies?

American school systems are no where near those in Asia, particularly Korea, China, and Japan. High school is of utmost priority, because preparations are made to enter the most prestigious universities in the world. School hours are long and summers do not exist. Even in America, preparatory schools, year-long and summer, exist for the motivated. Since 6th grade, I have been a victim of this Asian belief in quality education and the competitive edge. I have gone through the usual set of classes through middle and high school, but my summers were mostly booked for these SAT/Science preparation classes. It was only after starting college did my schedule lighten up with some money rolling in and fun times here and there. However, in Korea for example, school runs from early morning to 5 pm, with barely enough room for extracurricular activities and study time, 6 days a week. There are weekend school hours for additional learning time. Over the summer, there are preparation schools called Hogwan, the original inspiration for the sprouting schools in Asian American communities.

Where am I going with this conversation? Last night, I watched 2006 South Korean horror movie called 디데이 Roommates (also D-Day). Female students attend Younghwa Academy in preparation for their college entrance exams, a rather challenging step towards success. Upon entering, students must discard any personal belongings to prevent any distractions or contact with the outside world. Together, they are to become one happy family… In the beginning, you hear the perky principal advertising the importance of education and the school itself:  “Boost your concentration with beautiful scenery… Do your best… Remove your desires… Be competitive… You only need determination, Dreams definitely come true! …” They are equipped with a large communal bathroom, nourishing meals, quiet study rooms, comfortable dorm rooms, etc… What is there to complain about?

Four girls, Yoo-Jin, Da-Young, Eun-Soo, and Bo-Ram, all with differing temperaments and intelligence levels, live together in one of the dorm rooms. Strange things soon begin to appear, the first of which is a black stain on the ceiling that tends to change shape. Yoo-Jin, the bitch, tries to scare the girls when she reveals how there was a mysterious fire there three years ago… Girls died and their spirits roamed. Yoo-Jin, rambunctious and fiesty, fights the institution, until she starts seeing dead, bloodied corpses. She is driven mad and escapes after injuring herself, only to be forced back into the school by her mother. One day, she is discovered in the isolation room, dead, hanging off the ceiling.

Stranger things begin to reveal itself. Eun-Soo, the smartest girl coming in, soon spirals downward. Throughout the movie, she is seen popping different medications, whether it’s to prevent sleep or it’s for vitamins. She begins to deteriorate, while visions of the growing black stain haunt her. She becomes more sick with time, her grades and her demeanor suffering as a result. She becomes a whole different person, a contrast to the smart, helpful, innocent, and confident girl in the beginning. She becomes seriously insane and creepy, and history repeats itself.

The lesson from this movie… Do not study too much? Do not work too hard, or else you become a madwoman? Next time a teacher or professor says “Try your best next time, you can do it! You can do the best you can…” I can’t take those words seriously, because I’ll think about the underlying theme in this movie. It’s not easy at all to “try your best and do better next time.” It’s easy to say, not at all easy to do and do well. The value of education and success can be taken too far, and the stresses that result from studying and working hard can take their tolls on any person’s well-being.

What do I do to avoid going crazy? Easy, have fun. Over the years, especially after college, I’ve died down on my competitive edge. I make sure to have fun with friends, party, play games and Mah-Jong, indulge in good food, exercise and play sports… I will not let medical school consume my life; I will make time for myself, and that includes watching more horror movie for subtle lessons and learning =) Cheers to nightmares!


Korror: Fine Feet… or No Feet At All

The Red Shoes (2005) aka 분홍신 (Bunhongshin) is a South Korean horror movie about a pair of cursed pink (not red!) shoes.

I love the tag line: Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s… Remember this next time you want something that’s not yours -_-

Directed by Kim Yong-gyun

  • Kim Hye-soo as Sun-jae
  • Kim Sung-soo as In-cheol, Sun-jae’s boyfriend
  • Park Yeon-ah as Tae-soo, Sun-jae’s daughter
  • Go Soo-hee as Kim Mi-hee, Sun-jae’s friend

Sun-jae is a seemingly successful and smart woman, with an adorable daughter who loves to dance. On the inside, she feels insecure, inadequate, and unloved, particularly after she discovers her husband’s infidelity. Sun-jae soon leaves with her young daughter, Tae-soo, to begin a new life.

One lonely night while riding the subway, Sun-jae sees a pair of pink shoes. She is an avid shoe collector and the unique pair of pink shoes makes her feel, beautiful. The rhythmic clicking, the hot pink color, and the perfect fit; Sun-jae is overcome with confidence when wearing the pair, especially when she flirts with a dashing, young interior designer In-cheol.

Back in the opening scene, the same pair of pink shoes is sitting at the subway, waiting. One school girl eyes it and wears it, automatically feeling good about herself. Then, her friend arrives and wrangles the shoes away for herself. Soon after, strange events happen; the unfortunate girl falls and sees her feet cut off, a really bloody track of a mess. Bye bye pretty feet..

Bye Bye Feet

Soon enough, Sun-jae discovers the curse of the pink shoes. Those who wear the shoes magically fit them and are overcome with strong feelings of satisfaction and happiness, but at a price. Feelings of envy and selfishness wring its damaging effects on the person. The daughter, Tae-soo, fights her mother for the shoes. When Sun-jae’s best friend, Mi-hee steals the pair from Tae-soo, she is also faced with a cruel and gory demise.

Now, Sun-jae and her boyfriend work together to solve the mystery behind the shoes before she and her daughter fall victim to the curse. Well, the tragedy behind the pink shoes goes back 60 years. A gorgeous, aspiring ballet dancer with long black hair is the star of Seoul’s stage (I’ll call her the White Swan, but I recall her name being Keiko). And of course, there’s a jealous rival who’s ready to steal the man and the stage (I’ll call her the Black Swan). So, Black Swan sleeps with the man, a photographer, and kills the White Swan. They get married, but not for long. At the grand wedding, the Black Swan dances in the pink shoes, which contrasts horribly with her wedding dress honestly. Soon enough, the dancing couple is mysteriously caught in a spiraling rope on stage and get hung to death. The ghost and her prized shoes come back in the present day and haunt those who are envious, greedy, and desirous.

The past haunts the present

The movie is entertaining overall, though the intermittent flashbacks do get confusing. You have to do some implicit reading to understand what happened in the past, and even with that, I’m not sure if I have the tragedy correct. The ending still leaves you with questions and an eerie feeling. For one, there’s always a twist to these movies. The movie drags on to reveal that a real person, and not some ghost on a mission, is a real murderer. For another, I was shocked to deduce that Tae-soo is the reincarnation of Keiko, the “White Swan.” Before the movie ends, she is as pale as a ghost, but she’s dancing gracefully in front of the mirror, just like how Keiko used to. The past never dies, because it lives on into the present.

The reincarnated White Swan?

Side comments:

  • Mind you, subways in Asia are so… nice and clean, a really pretty shade of gray-blue. Plus, there are no grimy bums downing booze or shaking cups of pennies at you. Same thing in Taiwan and Japan, the subways are almost, elegant.
  • Pink shoes, really? I love pink, everything from Barbies to flowers, from my stethoscope to my attire. But pink shoes are difficult to match with anything except more pink clothes. Even then, it’s just too flamboyant.
  • It reminds me of the movie, The Black Swan (2010), out now in theaters. Well, I was watching The Red Shoes on Youtube, and then I saw a link for the The Black Swan trailer. Except for the part with competing ballet dancers and the handsome prince stuck in between, nothing else is similar. Looks like I’ll be planning a trip to the movies soon to watch this acclaimed psychological thriller.

Scary Movie Time: Sorum 소름

It’s winter break, and I’m optimizing my brief stint of freedom wisely. That is, I’m hitting a movie marathon with my dear sister. Her fat list of 5-star movies (mostly horror and creepy ones from the Japanese and the Deutch) puts my little list to shame. Each night, we spend the evening watching movies and the like, in the dark, before copyright infringements wipes them off the Internet.

A few days ago, I watched the 2001 South Korean horror film, Sorum 소름.
Director = Yoon Jong-chan

Kim Myeong-min = Yong-hyun, a taxi-driver who moves into an eerie, ramshackle, but strangely familiar apartment building

Jang Jin-young = Sun-yeong, a young, battered woman who longs for her ‘lost’ child.

The room Yong-hyun moves into Room 504, previously occupied by a young writer who died in a mysterious fire. 30 years ago in the same apartment building, a domestic disturbance turned into a terrible tragedy. A young wife, abused and betrayed, and her child were left to die in a fire, while her husband runs off with his mistress. Now her ghost roams the apartment, sadly longing and looking for her beloved baby.

There are 2 types of ghosts: 1) those that wander, lost and 2) those that enter the bodies of the living, not wanting to leave the world. On a side track, it’s like the episode of South Park, called “Dead Celebrities,” where Michael Jackson has some ‘unfinished business’ and refuses to leave the world of the living. What does he do? He enters the body of little Ike and the South Park kids try to pry his spirit out by entering “Ike-MJ” in a beauty pageant.

Yong-hyun encounters and hooks up with a mysterious, quiet woman, Sun-yeong, from down the hall. At one point in the movie, the conversation turns to her dead son. Yong-hyun mentions he’s an orphan himself and wonders if he was thrown-away like trash or simply lost because his parents died. He constantly brings up this topic, to the disconsolation of Sun-yeong; the reminder of her beloved son is too much, too painful.

The movie takes on a slow pace. The surprises and secrets do not start to twist and fit together until the last 30-minutes of the 2-hour movie. Then, we see Yong-hyun’s inner Hulk rupture, his real connection with the past and present, and the answer he has been seeking his entire life.