Nope, I do NOT mind waiting for the fresh popcorn.

Ten More Trailers to Keep You Awake- #2/10 – The Wishing Stairs (South Korea), 2003

NOTE: Yes, this is a re-print of an article originally published on 9/27/2012. Due to missing over a week of postings in late May (got kicked in the ass by pneumonia and the unexpected death of a good friend) things got pretty sparse here as everything else went out the window at the time …so I’m filling them in (and back-dating them for the days we were on the disabled list) in with cool stuff. Enjoy.

HORROR BOOM

 

Do you dare do climb the 29th step?  HELL NO!

…South Korean boarding schools for girls (especially those that focus on the arts) seem like wretched enough places already without having to deal with ghosts suddenly swooping down at you from the ceiling when you’re trying to sleep in a dark, spooky room,  or pale hands slipping out of nowhere to grasp your wrist or ankle in the middle of the night…

More skin-crawling Asian Horror- this time from South Korea.

 

I first saw this movie in Fall 2009, when it scared me so bad it actually kept me awake until I purposely watched the DVD extras to see interviews with the actresses to try to put things in perspective (just a movie…just a movie… ), got up and grabbed both our cats to sleep on the bed with me, and scooted as far over to…

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Ten More Trailers to Keep You Awake- #2/10 – The Wishing Stairs (South Korea), 2003

 

Do you dare do climb the 29th step?  HELL NO!

…South Korean boarding schools for girls (especially those that focus on the arts) seem like wretched enough places already without having to deal with ghosts suddenly swooping down at you from the ceiling when you’re trying to sleep in a dark, spooky room,  or pale hands slipping out of nowhere to grasp your wrist or ankle in the middle of the night…

More skin-crawling Asian Horror- this time from South Korea.

 

I first saw this movie in Fall 2009, when it scared me so bad it actually kept me awake until I purposely watched the DVD extras to see interviews with the actresses to try to put things in perspective (just a movie…just a movie… ), got up and grabbed both our cats to sleep on the bed with me, and scooted as far over to my husband’s side of the bed as I could without danger of injury.  I’m pretty sure that was probably the last time I watched anything from the South Korean Whispering Corridors series (this is #3, and probably the second-most frightening) after dark for quite some time. As I was writing this article, I realized to myself that the last time I watched any J-horror by myself after dark was around 2005 (and it may have been earlier than that). The last J-horror movie I remember watching after dark, period, was Uzakami (2000, AKA Spiral) in Summer 2008.  I have a piece written up on the movie and the equally nightmarish manga written up, but I want to flesh it out some first, and there’s no goddamned way I’m touching on the most frightening elements, including getting out my copies of the paperback to refresh my memory, and posting it at 3AM!

Here’s the unnerving trailer for The Wishing Stairs:

Do you dare to climb the 29th step?  No, as a matter of fact, I fucking don’t! What do you think I am, crazy?

I do highly recommend the movie, and as soon as I can find a HD version of the trailer I’ll post it.  South Korean boarding schools for girls (especially those that focus on the arts) look like wretched enough places already without having to deal with ghosts suddenly swooping down at you from the ceiling when you’re trying to sleep in a dark, spooky room,  or pale hands slipping out of nowhere to grasp your wrist or ankle in the middle of the night. I recall reading reports that yes, bullying is as bad as it is in this series. That’s abuse from the students and  some of the teachers.  I don’t know if things have improved in the last ten years, but when I did research, I’m genuinely sorry to report that I was assured the attempted suicide, and suicide rates were significant (and that’s without supernatural elements).

Feeling sleepy yet?

Make a wish

Cinderella (South Korea, 2006) – This Ain’t No Fairy Tale

 

Make a wishI have a list of “Top Ten Scariest Asian Movies” on IMDB. Cinderella (2006, directed by Man-dae Bong), may have been the weakest in my list; then I saw the skin-crawling Thai movie Coming Soon and decided it had earned a place. So I ended up bumping Cinderella, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to give this creepy Korean thriller its props. If you love K-Horror, this deserves a look. Yes, it has one or two elements that appear frequently in other Asian horror movies; the lead character finding out a horrible secret, a couple scary-ass ‘ghost girls’ that move/crab-crawl in a creepily unnatural manner, their long wet hair covering the dead white faces. In all fairness, I should point out that except in some extreme cases, I personally never get tired of this formula and the common images. Never gets any less scary, I cringe every time  I get the feeling one is about to pop out or swoop down. If I’m watching them after dark with all the lights off, sometimes I chicken out and hit ‘mute’ (but many times, still find myself sinking lower and lower, and in a couple of cases, peeking out from behind a pillow) . If you’re just completely goddamned sick of them and want something brand-new, perhaps you should give this one a pass. Either way, I advise watching the trailer for a good idea of the tone and art direction in the movie; there are few spoilers, which we horror fans always appreciate in a trailer.

Trust me, they had it coming!

The lead’s classmates are a bunch of mean-spirited little bitches! Trust me, they had this coming…

[30+ minutes of fruitless searching. on my Macbook Pro later] Guess what? I couldn’t find one subtitled in English! I had one carefully set away for this post, stored in more than one place, then boom, gone from my playlist.  Well, this way you’ll really be going in clean. Here’s. the poster art, thanks to our friends at Tartan Asia Extreme

Why the title? Don’t expect any glass slippers, but there is a connection. To tell you would be to give too much away, though…

I gave Cinderella seven out of ten stars rather than the nine to ten stars I traditionally give to perfect, borderline-soiling-yourself-in-utter-terror Asian horror masterpieces such as  Shutter and Shimizu’s Ju-on series. Cinderella begins with a hauntingly memorable pre-credits sequence. A dreamy image of slender candles being carefully lit on a child’s birthday cake; in the darkness, all you can see are what the warm candlelight reveals-a pair of female hands and the decorated cake. We see the hands gracefully lifting the cake and carrying it down a corridor, so dark that the cake nearly appears to be gently floating to its destination all on its own. Birthday candles on a cake, that’s a familiar, comforting, memory, right? The lilting music-box playing is… oh, I can’t do it justice right now, so just check out this teaser trailer (no English subtitles, but you’ll get the idea):

…and the fairy-tale spell is jarringly broken. That’s the kind of punch this movie is capable of packing. Some parts, especially the first act, suffer from pacing issues, dragging down the film (and viewer a bit). But get ready for the last act-it grabs your ankle like a cold

Yeah, I decided to go with the natural look after all.

Things I’ve Learned After it Was Too Late, Vol. 24: don’t work on the Cinderella gallery when you have a sinus infection that already hurts like hell.

hand from under your bed.  Through flashbacks, there’s a pretty classic, even Gothic, sick back story that stuck with me. There’s a couple hints, but it turns out to be way uglier (no pun intended-if you’ve seen the movie you’ll get the unintentional play on words) than anyone imagined. I also actually started talking back to the flat screen TV a couple times (if I’d seen it in a theater and said the same things at that volume, I would have been asked by an usher to calm down).  I’ve noticed that South Korean chillers like “A Tale of Two Sisters” or Korean crime-revenge thrillers like “I Saw the Devil” and “Memories of Murder” consistently get me so hooked in that (more than once) I almost blew off a deadline because I HAD to know what happened.

VERY bad sign after surgery in a K-horror movie

There’s no possible way that’s gonna end well…

I saw that many reviewers cited the movie for being ‘too melodramatic’ and ‘more like some soap opera’. I can see a base argument ( I guess) for ‘melodramatic’ ; fair enough, I suppose (though I personally don’t agree-how calm would you be if you walked in a room just as your daughter hanged herself –on her birthday?). However, a SOAP? Jesus, if so, I’d like to ask what the hell kind of fucked-up soaps YOU’VE been watching?*  Do they include images of someone trying to slice their own face into gory ribbons? The only thing on TV right now that is a ‘horror-drama’ and would even come close to this claim is American Horror Story. Actually, if you’re a big fan of the show AHS –like I am–you’ll probably enjoy this movie.

 I ended up giving it 7/10 rather than 10/10 for the following reasons: the lead character’s (who has at least graduated high school) mother doesn’t look a day over thirty. Tops. I know Asian women usually look fantastic for their age (Bai Ling was born in, I think, 1966 and still doesn’t have one line on her face) but here it’s sort of distracting (and kind of creepy if you do the math). The film suffered from some pacing issues as I mentioned above–it could have been tightened up by removing 10 minutes or so. Finally, the ending is too close to one of those, “uh…YOU decide how it ended!” types. With pretty solid storytelling throughout, it was slightly irritating to not have at least one major character’s fate resolved, instead of having the narrative just sort of flap away on slow wings. Yeah, Cinderella is no Tale of Two Sisters or The Eye (then again, nothing is) but if you’re looking for some Korean-style genre scares and a twist or two you didn’t see coming, there’s much worse ways (and much worse movies to watch, trust me) to spend 100 minutes. As long as you weren’t really planning on sleeping like a log that night…

Never mind, I'll come back later when you're in a better mood.

Bad body language for an Asian horror film…

*Well, Nip/Tuck did get messed up enough to have sponsors pull advertising towards the end, but that’d probably fall under FX Drama, not ‘night-time soap’. Oh hey–AHS is from the creators of Nip/Tuck. Suddenly, now it makes sense. I can’t believe I didn’t make the connection until now. I have a piece I wrote coming up called, “Ten F-cked Up Things That Happen on Nip/Tuck”, and it practically wrote itself, it could easily be twenty and I wouldn’t have to shake the tree at all.

This Ain't No Fairy Tale

 

Seven South Korean Crime/Revenge Dramas in Seven Days

 

Also known as “the reason I’ve gone, what, a week without posting anything”.  This did not go quite as planned.  Here’s the first thing I learned: don’t watch seven brutal revenge/crime thrillers from South Korea in  seven days! Especially if you’re feeling even just a little off-kilter. In my case, I blew off several facts I’m pretty well aware of, through years of experience with them, mainly:

  • I have Seasonal Winter Depression (also known as SAD , standing for Season Affective Disorder).** .
  • They don’t get less depressing on repeated viewings
  • I had PMS, which tends to make me ‘moody’, but more than moody: tense and VERY jumpy
  • and finally,  that even ONE well-made South Korean gritty crime/revenge thriller is enough to make you bummed out enough all day …let alone doing something really stupid like watching I Saw the Devil and No Mercy back-to-back (yep, I was that stupid).

So hey! it’s winter and I’m not getting enough sleep, so now would be a perfect time for an in-depth writing project consisting of an a series of reviews and general observations. Plus there’s that whole ‘7 in 7 days’ thing goin’ on! That sounds easy enough!

I’m organizing my articles now, and I can post the in-depth pieces in seven days in a row after. I actually  learned other things (besides  think twice before you watch seven of the most brutal Korean crime flicks ever made all in a short period of time). I learned other things that will actually be interesting, mostly cultural. Since I was too busy listening to and thinking about The Ramones when our classes covered it, I accidentally learned some history and culture along the way after I started seriously watching Asian horror/thrillers. I even learned cultural differences between mostly South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

I’ll rattle off the movies I plan on covering, in no particular order of importance (or brutality):

  • Chaser
  • I Saw the Devil
  • No Mercy
  • The Unjust
  • The Man from Nowhere
  • Bedevilled
  • Memories of Murder

Why no Chan-Wook Park films? Because my  husband thoughtfully bought me, as a surprise gift,  the “Vengence Box Set” which I think has six discs (Rick, can I marry you AGAIN?), and I plan on doing a piece on all three. A  loooong  project there (or at least a very long series of articles).

Only one of the above does NOT have an exceptionally dark ending which ends up with multiple character’s lives being destroyed.  OK, possibly two, but by the end of the rest of these movies, there’s really no winners among the characters here. Though if the audience counts, then we win for getting to see some of the most brilliant, suspenseful crime movies ever made! Now here’s some cool dialogue I hope you enjoy. I know I did!

the Man from Nowhere

Tae-Sik Cha: You live only for tomorrow.
Man-seok: What?
Tae-Sik Cha: The ones that live for tomorrow, get fucked by the ones living for today.
Man-seok: What are you babbling about?
Tae-Sik Cha: I only live for today. I’ll show you just how fucked up that can be.

I Saw the Devil

Kim Soo-hyeon: I will kill you when you are in the most pain. When you’re in the most pain, shivering out of fear, then I will kill you. That’s a real revenge. A real complete revenge.

So, it turns out that most of the movies I listed above HAVE no quotes on the IMDB. Good thing I wrote them down!

And finally, here’s the best trailer for I Saw the Devil. This is the trailer that had me searching online for a work print. There was only one on you tube, and it only had English subtitles for the first 10 minutes. After that, it was all in Korean, and I’m hardly fluent. I still watched it online, though, because I was so psyched about this movie I couldn’t wait 5 months to rent it on DVD. It was worth it, and because of the excellent storytelling you still get the general idea. Also, I got to see a couple scenes that aren’t on the DVD release, because they had to be trimmed to get the movie released AT ALL in South Korea.

This isn’t a Red Band trailer, but it is pretty intense. If you’ve been on the fence about seeing this movie because you’re worried about it being too violent, then here’s a good way to find out; if the trailer disturbs you, I highly recommend that you skip the movie. Up to you, everyone has their own level of what crosses the line for them. I wouldn’t blame you for avoiding the movie due to this trailer. However, I can’t help saying too bad, because you’re not just missing a jaw-dropping, carefully crafted revenge flick  from South Korea, you’ve simply missing one of the best modern crime thrillers ever made.

After I watch a couple more cartoons featuring Yosemite Sam (and maybe a repeat watch of 30 Minutes of Less),  to lighten up after OD’ing on brutal South Korean revenge movies, I’ll start posting about them!

**Even when everything in my life couldn’t be going better, and I’ve got nice happy positive vibes, I get SAD to some degree. “You’re just not getting enough light,” is usually the advice I got. Makes sense, okay. In college, in fact, I recall a therapist urging me to go get a special UV light. Unfortunately,  no-one bothered to mention the fact that you can’t use it just any time of the day. Furthermore (and we’re talking about people with normal sleep cycles who have coffee to get them going in the morning), back then at least, you needed to set your alarm an hour early, turn on the BRIGHT light, then sit there trying to stay awake for an hour. Even back then, I really, really hated mornings. I tried to avoid registering for any class starting before 9:30 AM. “You only can use it before the sun comes up in the morning and if you do it after dark, there’s a 99% chance it’ll cause insomnia,” my doctor (who waited way too long to convey this info) patiently explained.  Oh, and it “doesn’t really kick in for 3 months”.  At that rate, it’ll be time to set the clocks forward an hour and I’d feel way better regardless. This year, I think right around the time Spartacus: Vengeance wraps up the season (sniffle) is when it’ll kick in. So, this year hasn’t been too bad. And update-Daylight Savings starts this weekend. Yay.