“The Ghost” – A.J. Hakari

If flicks like Memento and the Bourne series have taught viewers anything, it’s that having amnesia really sucks. Such is also the case for the heroine of the South Korean chiller The Ghost. But don’t let the movie’s native country fool you; this is as much a product of the Japanese horror boom as any other Ringu ripoff, so much so that anything funky or intriguing that does emerge comes as too little, too late.

Ji-won (Kim Ha-neul) is a young college student in an unfortunate position. A year prior, an unspecified incident caused Ji-won to lose her memory, her attempts to start over causing a strained relationship with her mother, as well as with a fellow student (Ryu Jin) with a big crush on her. But just as Ji-won is about to pack up and begin a new life studying abroad, something strange starts happening to the girls she used to hang around with in high school. While one is driven to the looney bin, two suffer extremely odd deaths in which the cause appears to be drowning — despite there being nothing around to have drowned in. At the same time, Ji-won herself begins to feel a ghostly presence on a mission to lead her to the same horrible end, sending our befuddled heroine on an investigation to plumb the depths of her own damaged memory to find out what happened before the ghost claims her next.

One has to be forgiven for being so wary about the originality and ambitions of a movie with a title like The Ghost that all but defines laziness. In the Asian horror trend that’s exploded in recent years, it’s pretty hard to find any real variety beyond the “long-haired ghost out for revenge” scenario that’s rubber-stamped onto one film after the other. The little twists and turns these filmmakers introduce to try and separate their product from the rest of the pack usually backfire, in the same way that singers still cover “Jingle Bells”; speed up or slow down the tempo all you want, it’s still the same blasted song I have to hear a dozen times a day during the holidays. The Ghost is no exception to this apparent rule, presenting a rather boring stream of scare sequences that will have you thinking about what you need to get from the store more than cowering in fear.

The movie is definitely very well-made, with more crisp cinematography and truly spooky atmosphere than you usually get from slapdash horror flicks like these that were made on the cheap. But a great look is only part of the equation, as The Ghost stumbles mostly due to its wan storytelling and uneven acting. The plot is your basic supernatural mystery with a structure in the tradition of other Asian horror imports, including the obligatory “good conquers evil” fake-out ending before the filmmakers sucker-punch you with a twist just as you’re about to switch off the TV. In this case, though, the flick’s big revelation plays out to mixed results; technically, it connects to the story well enough, but on principle, this twist has the potential to inspire many a viewer to scream “Oh, come on!” before drop-kicking their DVD players out the window. The performances aren’t anything to write home about either, especially when it comes to star Kim Ha-neul. She has a gorgeous and very photogenic face, but that doesn’t count for a lot when she’s looking like she’s waiting for her nails to dry in a scene where her character’s getting strangled.

Though it won’t provide much for seasoned horror buffs, The Ghost serves as a bearable enough introduction for casual viewers into the world of Asian horror. But keep in mind that although The Ghost isn’t a complete washout, other flicks have done exactly what it does before — and better, to boot.

 

Rating: ★★☆☆

 

-A.J. Hakari

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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