Actresses shine in not-so-scary 'Ghost - Omnibus'

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff reporter

The omnibus teen horror flick "Ghost - Omnibus" leads the lineup of seasonal scary movies for the summer.

The first Korean film to be included in last year's Midnight Passion, the popular horror movie section of the Pusan (Busan) International Film Festival (PIFF), it exhibits flashes of brilliance and creativity by its young directors and featured actors.

The movie had premiered under the title "Be With Me", and all three stories are about the fear of being left alone. The basic premise is thoroughly Korean given the country's shamanistic roots and pervasive national sentiment of "han", which is unrequited causes and deeply imbedded sorrow that, in traditional folklore, keeps spirits from crossing over to the other side.

The experimental nature of the episodes distinguish them from conventional Korean "gyobok" (school uniform) horror movies, which are blood-splattered vendetta pieces stemming from jealousy, betrayed friendship and other sources of hormone-ridden teenage drama. It is more about special encounters with spirits that linger on campus and offers a novel, but rather far from terrifying, experience that is nevertheless worth noting as a showcase reel for promising new talent.

The project however could have done without the wrap-around episode by Kim-Jho Gwang-soo, featuring television star Bae Soo-bin as a mysterious tarot card fortune teller who hands out cards to the ill-fated heroines of each episode. The unifying theme should have been enough to keep the films together.

The first installment by Jo Eun-Kyung is perhaps the least impressive of the batch. It tries to offer thrills in the most conventional way, with eerie sound effects, splashes of blood and an awkwardly-rendered ghost that surprises you (or at least tries to) from behind. In short it's like a visit to a haunted house at a high school carnival.

A girl who seems to be the school loner eats lunch by herself while looking after a stray kitten in an abandoned building of the school. You wonder whether to be bemused or horrified as she falls to her death after a fatal slip through the basement window.

One day the younger members of the school's drama team are given the mission to enter and retrieve items from the building's old costume room. Three girls venture in, oblivious of the fact that a dead girl lurks, looking for a friend to keep her company.

Hong Dongmyung offers perhaps the most engrossing story of the three. Actress Kim Kkobbi, who made her mark as the heroine of the multiple award-winning indie film "Breathless", stars alongside Shin Ji-soo, who has matured from her TV roles.

So-yeong (Shin) and Nam-heui (Kim) are the best of friends. When a pregnant Nam-heui breaks up with her boyfriend, So-yeong helps her conceal her condition so that they can raise the child together once they go to college. The two girls and the boy who impregnated Nam-heui, however, also happen to be the top three students in class, and must compete for the one recommendation spot for Seoul National University.

On a final note, Joachim Yeo tells a delightful tale with a fantastic, experimental edge, though it is often more comic and cute rather than scary. Cheol-min (Lee Tae-ri) is a boy with a secret ― he can see dead spirits. He ignores them as much as possible to lead a relatively normal teenage life until he meets a charming young ghost (fresh new face Choi Hye-kyung).

The middle-school girl had been killed by a serial killer, but lingers around his classroom due to an unrequited love for one of Cheol-min's classmates. When she realizes that Cheol-min can see her she asks that he be her cupid. But the ghost of the serial killer however manages to continue to threaten her even in the afterlife. Actor Park Won-sang makes a memorable appearance as an abominable teacher.
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