Thursday 7 August 2008

The Ghost (2004)

Well, this one certainly starts off like a classic horror movie. As the opening credits roll, we hear slow piano music against a slowly building drone. Then we hear some children singing the Korean equivalent of hide and seek, we are briefly warned, and suddenly it's Korean schoolgirls, a ouija board, ritual chanting, someone having a nightmare and some awesomely dilated eyeballs. They're conjuring up some sort of a ghost, all as a joke, but apparently however much of a joke it was, it was also real. Soon elder sis is experiencing bizarre Asian horror creepiness in the kitchen.

This a very creepy little film and one in which the creepiness doesn't let up. Really when looking at each instance of shock, relief, shock, there's nothing new here at all, but it's all put together very nicely indeed and it's certainly effective. It's also hardly obvious, as we leave this group and leap forward in time to when these Sang Rim High School students are of college age. It's initially a little difficult to work out who's who, who's important and who in the present ties to who in the past. As we discover the pieces though, this becomes a powerful jigsaw.

Min Ji-won is our central character and she knows about as much about herself as we do: she has long-term amnesia. As she begins to come to terms with the concept that her memory may never return, she decides to leave to study abroad in an environment that is entirely new to her for good reason. And then her past begins to reappear: not as memories per se, but as apparently supernatural hallucinations of a little girl and through the reappearance of a childhood friend who has a photo of the schoolgirl friends.

Unfortunately this is a telling time for all of them. Kim Eun-seo is dead. Oh Yu-jung is dead too, drowned even though she was in a photographic darkroom at the time. Mi-kyung is in a psychiatric hospital, shuddering, shrieking and mortally afraid of water. And everything that Min discovers gradually adds to the understanding that while she's a good person without many friends now, back in high school she was the nouveau riche ring leader of a gang of girls and not a very nice person at all. Everything seems to tie to a young girl called Su-in, who is nowhere to be found.

Kim Ha-neul is the lead and she's very good indeed in a role that calls for two very different portrayals of the same person. In many ways it must be easier to play two different roles in the same film than two versions of the same one. It's a real juggling act but Kim is highly impressive. She's made nine films so far, of which this was the seventh. is Su-in, who is at once the least of the bunch and the most, and she makes the most of her performance. The two have a solid connection and there's a seriously twisted twist at the end to solidify it even further. The rest of the cast are decent but don't get anywhere near the screen time to compete.

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