Ghost
Aka Dead Friend
I need to go to the bathroom, but it’s just not gonna happen right now. It’s simply too risky. Even with the full-size cardboard Stormtrooper I got in my living room guarding the door persistently, like he always does, it’s still not safe to leave the warm light, and venture into the dark hallway. Since we’re not going anywhere, let me tell you how things got so out of hand...

THE STORY

The story of “Ghost” is the story of Ji-won (Kim Ha-neul), a bright young student with a promising future ahead of her. Her past is a different story, though. Something happened to her a while ago, and whatever it was, it left Ji-won with a blank memory. She has no recollection of who she is, her friends or her life before the incident.

Hard work and lots of exercise - she enjoys swimming - has brought her back to her current state, almost completely recovered, except for the fact that she still can’t remember anything.

Ji-won’s plan is to travel abroad to study in the hope that leaving her familiar surroundings will do her some good, but her mother is against this decision. Ji-won’s father is dead, and her mother feels abandoned and alone. She tries to persuade her daughter to stay.

Ji-won begins to remember little things from her past that come to her in short flashes. At the same time she sees strange things around her: A little girl hiding in her closet, only to disappear the next moment, and dark figures looming in the shadows. She suspects that these scattered images and events are somehow connected to her past.

When one of Ji-won’s old friends Eun-seo is found dead, drowned in her home, she begins to investigate her past. She’s desperate for any kind of information, but nobody will talk to her. Everybody seems to blame her for some horrible event.

Ji-won discovers that she was once friends with three other girls: Eun-seo, Yu-jung and Mi-kyung. Together these four girls formed an impenetrable alliance, and then... what? What happened? What did she do? Why does everybody look at her funny, and why - for the love of God - can’t she remember anything? Ji-won digs deeper into her past, hoping to find the answer. But as the old saying goes: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it...

THE FILM

I know what you’re thinking. Yet another horror movie with little ghost girls popping out of nowhere. Yet another film filled with teens in peril, screaming their hearts out, before they die a gruesome death. “Ghost” certainly fits this description, but give it a chance, you might be surprised.

“Ghost” goes for the jugular right in the first scene, with some “over the top” scares. That’s a little foolhardy. The film runs the risk of alienating some members of the audience, because these scares are simply too preposterous, and they’ll most likely inspire equal amounts of laughter and screams. After this the film settles down long enough to establish an earthbound rapport with the lead character, and from then on it runs pretty smoothly.

The introduction of Kim Ha-neul as Ji-won gives the film a solid platform to work from. Instead of being another one of those films, where a group of characters are slaughtered one by one, and all you need to worry about is who’ll be next, “Ghost” takes an interest in Ji-won and makes her frustrated search for the truth the core of the film.

Strictly speaking a horror movie has but one function: To scare bejesus out of the viewer. Right? Right! And if it manages to do so, it’s a success. Right? Right! Well, in that case “Ghost” is a winner. It does work with a familiar catalogue of scares - you’ll have seen many of these scenes before - but who cares? as long as they work.

The most terrifying moments in “Ghost” come from the appearance of a ”Ring”-style girl, with drenched hair and one evil eye looking out from the mass of hair. It seems no matter how many times I see an image like that, it still creeps me out. Same could be said for the movie’s protagonist. Ji-won initially handles the “strange occurrences” very well, but slowly the film grinds her down, and she begins to lose her calm composure.

But nothing will prepare her - or the viewer for that matter - for the earth-shattering revelation, when the truth is finally exposed in the final scene. That really caught me off guard, I didn’t expect something that clever from this kind of film. Out of this world creepy, and at the same time believable. Frustrating, yet satisfying. That is how you end a movie!

It almost seems ridiculous to mention it at this point, but this is yet another solid Korean movie, with everything we’ve come to expect from this region. Great cinematography, with a cool green look, very eerie! And let’s not forget about the kickass soundtrack, with an ingenious sound design that’ll make the room come alive around you, in the most unpleasant way.

WRAP-UP

This is not the kind of film you’ll want to watch with some friends and a case of beer. Treat the film with the respect it deserves. Watch it alone, in the dark, on a good surround system, and I promise you’ll be terrified. That’s what I did, and that’s why I’m sitting here now, with all the light on, drinking energy drinks, too afraid to go to sleep.

As my trembling hands cradle an empty can in search of something else to preoccupy my mind, I’ll leave you with this thought: Scary movies work, to some extend, because you willingly surrender your sense of security, and leave yourself exposed. If you don’t do this, if you sit like a hardass with your arms crossed judging the film, it simply won’t affect you.

I submit this: “Ghost” will scare you to the depth of your soul. But only if you let it.
David Bjerre
September 19, 2004
GALLERY






Original Title
Ryung
Country
South Korea
Year
2004
Director
Kim Tae-kyung
Cast
Kim Ha-neul (Ji-won)
- Too Beautiful To Lie (2004)
- Ice Rain (2004)
- My Tutor Friend (2002)
- Ditto (2000)
Nam Sang-mi (Soo-in)
- Too Beautiful To Lie (2004)
- Spy Girl, A (2004)
Ryu Jin (Joon-ho)
Shin Yi (Mi-kyung)
Jeon Hee-joo (Yoo-jung)
Jeon Hye-bin (Eun-seo)
DVD Availability
Available on DVD from YesAsia: