Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 22nd, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: South Korea, June 18th, 2004
Director: Tae-kyeong Kim
Writer: Tae-kyeong Kim
Cast: Ha-Neul Kim, Sang-mi Nam, Bin, Yi Shin, Hie-ju Jeon, Yun-ji Lee
DVD released: August 29th, 2005
Approximate running time: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 & Stereo
DVD Release: Optimum
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £15.99
Instead of studying for their upcoming exams Eun-jung (Yun-ji Lee) and two of her friends decided to conjure up the dead by performing a séance with an Ouija board. They go to sleep that night not worry about the game the played earlier only to find out in the morning that Eun-jung’s sister was found dead with her lungs filled with water. Min Ji-won (Ha-Neul Kim) has been seeing a doctor since losing her memory two years ago and to make things worse lately she has been seeing a ghost. When Yu-jeong (Hie-ju Jeon) another girl from Min Ji-won’s past also dies with her lungs filled with water she starts to tries to uncover the truth about her past before she becomes the next victim.
I spent most of my youth watching horror films during the heyday of the 1980’s slasher films. These films often relied heavily on two things violence and sexuality. The violence in most cases was over the top as it verged on comedy more then terror and for good measure all of these films would through in a few scenes with naked girls. It didn’t take long before this formula wore itself out which lead to me seeking out other genre’s to keep me entertained until the horror genre resurrected itself. Over the last few years there has been renaissance in horror films that has peaked my interest in the genre once again. This new breed of horror films from Asia don’t resemble the horrors of my youth as they focus more on psychological trauma and less on grotesques murder set pieces that I no longer find to be frightening or shocking. Right now more then ever in North America Asian cinema is at the height of its popularity as audiences’ continue to seek out something new then the movies by the numbers approach attitude from Hollywood. Most of these Asian horror films are based around teenagers and it is interesting to watch just how much alike teenagers are whose cultures couldn’t be more far apart.
The Ghost is best described as a supernatural game of Hide and Seek. The tormentors become the victims when the victim becomes assertive and takes control of the game. This film is also not strictly just a horror films as its mixes elements from the mystery and thriller genre into the overall scheme of things. One thing that struck me instantly was this films amazing use of sound which is always an important part of unsettling the audience during and in-between scares. Water is predominate theme through out the movie as it is not only seen often it is also heard. The score is effectively creepy especially the music box theme that harkens back to a more peaceful time before all the tragedies that happen in the film. The film has some well rounded characters and many of them have crutches like alcoholism, memory loss and fear of water that keep them from achieve their ultimate goals. The film is nicely pace as the moments of character development are perfectly balanced with moments of horror. The films intro is reminiscent of few recent horror films like Scream and The Ring as it goes for the viewers’ jugular right off the bat instead of working slowly to a final build up. Tae-kyeong Kim as the writer and the director of the film through beautifully lit composition builds a texture that lends to the films darker subject matter. Most of the cast are relative new comers who all are really good in the roles with the best performance coming from Ha-Neul Kim. The build up to the scares in this film I found extremely effective since I usually don’t scare easy and there were a few times my heart leapt while watching the film. Another thing I really enjoyed about the movie was that the Min Ji-won character who suffers from amnesia. I liked the fact that we as the viewer most of the time only knew what she new instead of making us wait for the character to catch up. This is an underused trick that Alfred Hitchcock employed many times better then anyone else and I wish more directors did this. The only thing I didn’t like about the film was that the Ghost character looked to much like the girl form the Ring. Besides this minor complaint The Ghost is a tense film that provides an ample amount of shocks.
Optimum Asia presents The Ghost in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The colors are in great shape and flesh tones look healthy. A lot of the film takes place during scenes that are either at night or are lit with very little amount of light. These scenes are sharp and full of detail as the black levels remain solid through out. There are no problems with compression or edge enhancement and grain is kept to a minimum. This release comes with one audio option the films original Korean language track that is presented in two different audio mixes a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a Dolby Digital stereo. Both tracks are offer exceptional sonic fields that perfectly capture the films ambient sound design. Dialog is crystal clear through out. The effects and music never sounds distorted or muffled. The Dolby Digital 5.1 offers a fuller sound of the two mixes with its more robust sound that adds to the films atmosphere. English subtitles that are easy to read and follow have been included.
Extras for this release include T.V. spots and a theatrical trailer for The Ghost as well as trailers for other Optimum Asia releases like Azumi, Azumi 2, Arahan, The Doll Master, Sky High and Fighter in the Wind. Other extras include a music video that contains music and clips from the film. There is also a brief making of segment the runs just about two minutes in length that is mostly comprised of behind the scenes footage. Rounding out the extras is interviews with some of the actors who discuss working with each other and various other experiences they had while working on the film. The extras for this release just barely scratch the surface and more in-depth extras would have nice, still Optimum Asia have done an amazing job with the audio/video presentation of this release. The Ghost is a unique film that works on many levels as it effortlessly combines genres and themes not commonly associated with the horror genre, highly recommended.
For more information about The Ghost and other titles released by Optimum visit their website.