The Jookran High School for Girls is not a pleasant place. The kids are regularly beaten and derided, and sexual harassment advances towards the girls is met with nothing more than disapproving glares from those who should stop it. Luckily, there’s a protective ghost roaming the halls who’s ready to do something.
Whispering Corridors is a very subtle and slow-paced ghost story. The ghost, whom we learn in the opening scene is a former student, is not really the menacing type. When she appears, it is not in a traditional ghostly form; but as a fully opaque girl who carries around a knife to use as a weapon. Further, most of her victims deserve what they get, for one reason or another; so, overall, she isn’t that scary an antagonist.
After a dark and stormy opening scene, we come to the next morning where the happy and popular Ji-Oh finds the meek and mousy Jae-Yi waiting outside for her. It’s not explicitly stated, but its suggested that they know of each other, but hadn’t talked much prior to this. The two become fast friends, forged in part by the shared trauma of finding their homeroom teacher, Mrs. Park, hanging from the school’s roof. Ji-Oh wants to be a painter, but has found no support for her dreams from either the school or her parents. Jae-Yi encourages her to follow her passions, and receives the attention she was lacking in return.
Concurrent with this budding relationship is a sub-plot involving a former student of Mrs. Park’s, turned teacher herself, Eun-Young. Eun-Young, like Ji-Oh, had a relationship with a sad, withdrawn girl. That one ended horribly, with Jin-Ju (the sad girl) committing suicide in the school’s art room.
It’s easy to hate Eun-Young for betraying Jin-Ju back in the day; but there’s something incredibly and bravely real about it. If every adult were judged by the worst thing they ever did as a child, very few would be left clean and respectable. There’s always a motivation to make your hero heroic; but in making Eun-Young flawed and at least partially guilty, the filmmakers ended up with a more relatable and believable character.
The school’s treatment of the students is extreme; but then, this film is from South Korea, so I can’t personally attest to its accuracy. Though I’d imagine, given the students’ reactions, that the poor treatment they receive is not common practice.
The DVD for Tartan is serviceable. The video looks like its 40 years old (its from 1998), and poorly transferred. But it is in anamorphic widescreen with a DTS soundtrack in its original Korean and removable English subtitles, so I think Tartan did the best they could with what they had.