Wishing Stairs review by Mike Long

Some of you may remember the scene in Scream 2 where the film school students are discussing sequels, and the rare case in which a sequel is better than the first film in the series. For the most part, the films named were second films, as we've come to expect any film beyond "Part 2" to be garbage. Well, as we all know, there are exceptions to every rule and from Korea we get Wishing Stairs, the third film in a loosely-connected trilogy of horror films set in a Korean high school. The first two films in the series pretty bad, but the third time is the charm, as Wishing Stairs is a marked improvement.

Wishing Stairs is set in an all-female high school which is apparently some sort of magnet school, as they have a strong ballet program. Jin-sung (Ji-hyo Song) and So-hee (Han-byeol Park) are two students who are dancers and best friends. But, when a scholarship to a famous dance academy is offered, their friendship turns into a bitter rivalry. When one of them wins the competition, the students turn on the winner, feeling that she cheated.

At this same time, one their classmates, Hae-ju (An Jo), is undergoing a transformation, as she has lost a noticeable amount of weight. As her bodies changes, apparently her psyche does as well, as she begins to grow more and more obsessed with So-hee. When Jin-sung finds a dead body in the art room, she begins to suspect that her life is in danger. But, she has no idea just how dangerous her school has become, as a vengeful ghost and a possessed student are set on her destruction.

The first two films in this series Whispering Corridors and Memento Mori, both presented themselves as supernatural horror films, but both strayed very far from that course. Each of these films focused more on the relationships between the female students and their teachers, and each contained a hint of a lesbian subplot...well, Memento Mori had more than just a hint. Yes, both movies had a mysterious death and some ghostly occurrences, but this came far too late in each case. Essentially both movies were very boring.

Wishing Stairs is able to break out of this mold by being the first movie in the series where we actually get a series of events which can readily be identified as not only supernatural, but slightly creepy. The first half of the film feels as if it's going to follow in its predecessor's footsteps, as the movie dwells on the relationship between Jin-sung and So-hee and it appears that the movie is only going to be about ballet. However, once the Hae-ju subplot begins to coalesce and an accident happens at the school, things begin to take a turn towards the horrific. The last 1/3 of the film contains a bloody murder and many scenes where Jin-sung is being tormented by apparitions. This isn't to imply that the feel comes off as a great Asian fright-fest, because it doesn't and many of the scenes were clearly influenced by Ringu and Ju-on, but at least there are horror film elements in this movie. After being put to sleep by the first two films in this series, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that Wishing Stairs not only held my attention, but actually tried to be scary as well. If you've been waiting for that Korean girl's school horror movie which actually have an active ghost, then this one's for you.

Wishing Stairs comes to DVD courtesy of Tartan Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, but it does show a very fine sheen of grain on the image. Also, the picture is noticeably dark at times. On the positive side, the colors in the film look great, especially the red tones. There is some mild artifacting on the image, but it's not overly distracting. The DVD carries both a Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, as well as Korean DTS 5.1 track. Both tracks sound very good, as they offer clear dialogue and superb music reproduction. Each track provides very nice surround sound effects and the subwoofer goes nuts doing the ghost attack scenes. Both of these tracks are perfectly serviceable, but the DTS track is slightly louder and clearer.

Wishing Stairs was released to DVD in Region 3 in a very nice, extras laden two-disc set. For this Region 1 release, Tartan has taken some, but not all, of the extras from that set. We start with a "Making of Featurette" (36 minutes). This is a very thorough segment, as it contains tons of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew. It also contains a look back at the first two films. Four of the principals actors in the film are interviewed in "Cast & Crew Interviews" (20 minutes). "Director's Sketchbook and Notes" contains four sub-sections which focus on the ballet in the film, the special effects make up, the comic art which Hae-ju creates, and the film's score. The extras are rounded out by a "Poster Art Gallery" and a "Photo Gallery". All of these extras are fine, but I would have liked to have seen the nearly 25 minutes of deleted scenes which appeared on the Region 3 DVD on this release.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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