Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Blood Pledge / Whispering Corridors 5: A Blood Pledge (Yeogo goedam 5: Dongban Jasal / 여고괴담5-동반자살)

She Bit Me!

The Blood Pledge is the fifth film of the South Korean horror series Whispering Corridors, where the only thing in common threading through all the films, are its predominantly female cast, its setting in an all girls high school, the dabbling with ghouls and spirits, and the context of urban myths and legends being spread through the gossip sessions along the corridors of schools, from which the anthology got its title from. All stories so far are different, and so are the characters, so in truth, you can watch this as a standalone film.

But it's not so much of a horror film, than a study into the psyche of the female of the species. Can I understand it? Certainly, as far as identifying common and distinctive behavioral patterns go. I would call this film, and probably the series, a girly-girl's film, not because of its cast, but rather having plenty of girly moments that before you label me sexist, think about it - girls will probably understand just what this is all about from its premise to the character motivations, while the guys, I suppose we're probably happy with the eye candy on display, rather than to sweat about the stuff that we don't understand because we're wired differently.

Take for instance, we don't fathom why the girls behave the way they do, with friendship treated so frivolously, in one moment you can befriend someone, and because of cliques and the want to belong to another group, you've got to burn bridges with others just so as to demonstrate group loyalty. Then there's the usual petty fights and arguments about grades, the stealing of boyfriends, gee wheez! the whole nine yards of schoolyard problems, magnified because you've got arguing school girls trying to assert their influence on one another. Here, there are 5 of them making up the core group, and a lot more from the outside playing supporting characters, which in turn makes it a pretty noisy, active school with the students doing everything but study.

The tale begins with 4 students - Soy (Son Eun-seo), Eon-ju (Jang Kyeong-ah), Eugene (Oh Yeon-seo, don't ask why the masculine character name) and Eun-yeong (Song Min-jeong) making a pact to commit suicides together. Well, if there's the existence of suicide clubs, then this idea and premise isn't all that far fetched, though their motivations to do so are kept under wraps for the time being. Meeting at a chapel and making the titular blood pledge where they are to die together, things get messy when only Eon-ju ended up killing herself, which leads to the rest being spooked because they fail to keep their end of the bargain. Witnessed by Eon-Ju's youngest sister Jeong-eon (Yu Shin-ae), she begins to bug the rest into providing answers, which of course isn't forthcoming, in order to provide narrative legs for the film.

Now just how one can form such a pact is beyond me, and so are things like running to your BFF (best friend forever) and telling her everything, and I mean everything, about the problems one is facing. Perhaps it's a guy thing to put up a strong front and not break down uncontrollably while figuring out solutions to problems, but in this case it is this confiding that perhaps laid the foundation for being continuously spooked. That said, this is not a horror film per se, as the ghoul hear appears in the day and at night, being much more like a guardian angel to keep her BFF away from trouble, and to inflict pain upon those that have ill intention toward a BFF. I suppose such a friend is for keeps, since he/she ensures some level of protection even when belonging to another realm altogether.

Writer-director Lee Jong-yong follows the tried and tested formula in Asian horror narrative, always giving out a little clue at a time as the story progresses, while dealing with the background of each of the characters, whether or not they contribute to the story directly. The scares here are pretty expected, with heavy reliance on sudden movements, in-your-face appearances, and dastardly makeup in other to elicit the fear factor, but seasoned genre audiences won't find your hair standing at all, being rather intrigued by the female talent on display here. After all, this franchise is famed for having some of its alumni progress into blockbusters and award winning films, with the likes of Song Ji-hyo from Wishing Stairs making that starring role as the Queen in A Frozen Flower, and more recently, Kim Ok-bin from Voice making her big art-house break as the bullied wife turned vampire in Thirst. It's anyone's guess now who amongst the ensemble here will progress much faster than the rest.

A Blood Pledge sneaks now in cinemas, and will make its local premiere on 15 July 2010.

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