Young-eon is staying late at her high school, practising a particularly difficult song in one of the auditoriums. Her best friend Sun-min urges her to go home, but she insists on staying a little while longer. Once Young-eon is alone, she senses something strange. It's as if there's a presence in the room. Soon she realises that she's not alone, so she panics and runs, but a dark figure follows her through the school. Then Young-eon notices something that makes her stop. A single music sheet hanging in mid-air. Suddenly the sheet flies though the air, and lodges itself in her throat! She collapses on the floor.
The next morning she wakes up back in the auditorium, unsure about what really happened. Maybe it was all a dream? As she walks through the corridors of the school, however, the truth begins to dawn on her. Especially when she attempts to talk to some of her fellow students, and they walk right through her! Young-eon is definitely dead. Now what?
When Sun-min arrives at school, Young-eon discovers that she can still talk to her friend, even though Sun-min can't see her. Together they try to figure out what really happened. Who killed her? Was it the strange music teacher? The weird student who never talks to anybody? Or something entirely different?
"Voice" is the fourth entry in the "Whispering Corridor" horror movie franchise. It shares no common points with its predecessors, save the fact that it takes place in an all-girl school and features a ghostly presence. Like "Memento Mori" it barely qualifies as a horror film, it's more like a mystery. There are some scares here and there, but the film never makes a habit out of trying to scare its audience, which is fine. Instead this is basically just a sad and solemn story that attempts to show what a spirit might feel in the first days after its body has died. Young-eon spends her days wandering around school without purpose watching the life she's no longer a part of, growing more and more lonely. It's impossible to go into detail without spoiling anything, but suffice it to say this is not a feel good film.
Visually the "Voice" is absolutely gorgeous to look at. The cinematography is flawless. During the days the warm sunlight illuminates the hallways in lazy yellow colors, while the wood panels of the rehearsal halls come alive with inviting brown hues. But then night falls and the emergency generators kick in, painting the whole school in eerie red light. The film also contains some rather nifty effect shots, which it puts to great use when Young-eon zaps back and forth between her current state and her memories. A class room, or one of the halls, slowly changes around Young-eon and transports us seamlessly to events from the past. Very cool.
"Voice" also uses music and sound quite effectively, which of course makes perfect sense, since these elements are an important part of the story. When she was alive Young-eon had a beautiful singing voice, and now that she's dead that voice is her only link to the world. This is illustrated through the use of an inventive sound design that fully explores the potential of the surround sound track.
Towards the end of the film, "Voice" plays up the mystery of Young-eon's death to fill out the running time, and that cheapens the film a little bit. It makes the story seem like a clever gimmick, straight out of an episode of "Twilight Zone". Maybe the film had been better served, simply by dropping the horror plot all together, and instead focus on the "dead girl must get used to being dead" part of the story.
Bottom-line: While this is difficult to sell as a horror film, it's highly recommended as a unique drama with a dash of something a little different. Something Korean cinema excels in.