Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Kpopalypse Guide to Horror Films with T-ara members in them

People are always requesting that I review things for their entertainment, and since I'm so eager to please you lovely blog-readers out there, how can I say no?  However I don't want to just review the same stuff everyone else does, in the same way.  This post is therefore a review of some crazy sick gory horror films, because I'm into that sort of thing.  I'm also into T-ara, so why not combine the two interests into one delicious set of reviews for your enjoyment?

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As a fan of k-pop and also a fan of horror movies, I find my potential to be strip-mined of all potential income and left destitute and homeless to be seriously under-utilised by the Korean pop industry.  Companies will insist on shoving their boys and girls into sappy romances, boring dramas and comedies with horrible Korean-style Captain Obvious humour which I guess the content creators need to do because netizens are such thickears that they don't seem to get jokes unless they're explained with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but that doesn't mean the result isn't fucking boring as shit anyway.  Some girl being called ugly and falling down a flight of stairs from 3 different camera angles, and then in slow-motion with sound effects added, that's about as much fun to me as pancreatic cancer.   If I want to see ugly people being clumsy and laugh I can just install a mirror in my own stairwell at home.  However, if at the bottom of those stairs someone then comes up and stabs the person in the throat and there's blood everywhere and the rest of the cast start shitting themselves and wondering if they're next, now we have some fucking entertainment, cunts.   But who can I reliably turn to in the k-pop world, to give me the dramatic thrills and k-pop related material that I as a brainwashed k-pop/horror fan with too much disposable income sorely need?

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Ah, Kim Kwang Soo, CEO of Core Contents Media.  I knew you'd come through for me, once again.  KKS has no problem with going where nobody else dares and putting his k-pop starlets into grisly and highly entertaining slasher films.  It's such a great marketing idea; if you love the idol, you get to see them perform, and if you hate them, you get to watch them (probably) die.  It's a win/win straight from the man who knows all about winning (T-ara still together and selling out stadiums across Asia?  Check.)  Add another notch to Kim Kwang Soo's gigantic list of achievements in making the k-pop world more awesome for everybody.

As it happens, there are not one or two but at least four horror films that feature T-ara members (and maybe more that I haven't discovered, feel free to enlighten me in the comments below), and occasionally other k-pop group members as well, and they were all released or in some way chaperoned by CCM.  Maybe you've seen these films, maybe you haven't.  If not, prepare for some (spoiler-free) reviews that should educate you as to whether these films are worth a watch, depending on what criteria you believe to be the most important to you.  On the other hand, if you have already seem these films, prepare for some opinions that you may or may not agree with, written in my usual style that always generates lots of love from the k-pop community.

Let's start with the film that most of you probably already know about and have seen.

WHITE - MELODY OF DEATH (aka WHITE - MELODY OF THE CURSE)

White-Melody-of-Death-2011-Movie-Poster

Released: 2011
Running time: 107 minutes

Plot synopsis: a bunch of girls are in a k-pop group called "Pink Dolls" who are flopping horribly, especially in contrast to rival girl group "Pure" (played by After School in a brief cameo where they perform "Bang!").  One of the members of Pink Dolls finds a scratchy videocassette recording of an unknown group performing a song called "White".  The group's producer likes the song and decides to remake it with Pink Dolls, it becomes a huge chart-topping hit, and then people start dying in mysterious and highly gruesome ways heavily reminiscent of the Final Destination series.

Appeal to general horror fans: average, at best.  "White" eschews overt gore, instead aiming for a slow, psychological atmospheric horror vibe similar to a lot of Japanese horror films, but only partially succeeds.  While the soundtrack and general look and feel of a great psychological horror film is there, the scriptwriting and characterisation necessary to hook the viewer into the action definitely is not.  T-ara's Eunjung plays the main character and she's honestly a little bit Mary Sue, and although Eunjung is in nearly every scene she doesn't really have a lot to do except stand around, look pretty, act like a nice person and occasionally become traumatised.  She does a reasonable enough job of the minimal amount of work that the script requires, but they could have given her a bit more light and shade, and with so much of the plot riding on her character it would have made the slower parts of the film where nobody is dying a lot more engaging if she had something more meaty and interesting to do than be a goody two-shoes.  As it stands the film feels overlong and the interesting bitchy support characters all die far too quickly.  Perhaps if the "curse" took out a handful of extras to satisfy the body count and let the support actresses live a bit longer, there could have been some more dramatic scenes of Eunjung being pulled by the hair and forced to lick toilet bowls by the other girls or something.

Appeal to k-pop fans: plenty.  "White" is the only horror film anywhere that I know of which is also specifically set within the k-pop industry, and while I'd stop short of saying it's a "must-watch" k-pop fans will definitely want to watch it anyway just for this reason alone - there's simply no other film out there like this right now.  Where the script actually gets it right is that it's willing to dig behind the facade of k-pop and show you stuff like member ostracision and bitchiness, groups being ridiculously overworked, support staff being cunty, faked vocal performances, and even behind-the-scenes "favours".  A cynical person may think a Core Contents Media production might have reason to hide such goings on in the seedy underbelly of k-pop but no - it's all right there.  You'll finish the film wondering "I wonder how much of that shit is true in the k-pop world", and of course I would have no idea about any of that ahem cough probably quite a fucking bit ahem.

Appeal to k-pop fappers: Eunjung gets tons of screen time, which will please fans.  Even though she's in long hair for most of it, which doesn't suit her, anyone biasing Eunjung heavily will get over it while they stare at her face which is constantly zoomed in on.  She doesn't wear anything that revealing, but then it's Eunjung the second most tomboyish high profile girl group member in all of k-pop so what do you expect.  Fappers need not come for After School, they're not in it long enough to work up a rhythm.

Score summary for White: Melody Of Death

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Overall Kpopalypse interest rating: 5.6/10


*

 GHASTLY (aka GISAENG SPIRIT)

ghastly-korea-2011

Released: 2011
Running time: 78 minutes
Plot synopsis: a kid called Bin has his parents murdered, so his relatives look after him, not knowing that the "creepy kid" is a standard horror movie cliche and that a bunch of people are about to get fucked up.  Cue limbs flying everywhere, lots of gore and some voodoo mysticism bullshit that you won't care about.

Appeal to general horror fans: quite a bit.  The film is pretty short, rocks quite a bit of gore straight out of the gate, and after a short period of the usual redundant character exposition typical of horror films the body count starts piling up.  Not too many minutes ever go by without somebody losing a limb (amputation deaths are apparently a specialty) and while the liberal use of blood and body parts arguably comes at the expense of some dramatic subtlety, you won't give a fuck.  The plot is a bit of a weakness being fairly cliched and the spiritual angle that comes into the film later might seem a bit insipid and weak, but if you're happy to eat popcorn, watch people get mangled while their stumps squirt blood and not question the logic of what you're seeing too much, you're in for a good time.

Appeal to k-pop fans: T-ara's Hyomin is in this, as a supporting actress who gets a reasonable but not excessive amount of screen time.  The other members of T-ara also appear in a couple of very short cameo scenes as her friends, including a trip to a nightclub... to dance to "Roly Poly", of course.

Appeal to k-pop fappers: Hyomin is rocking a snugly-fitting school uniform in almost every scene she's in and looks astonishingly good.  Don't be fooled by the somewhat awkward looking movie poster art - Hyomin in motion is a different story, and you will fap.  Plus, if that's not enough, she has a bath scene.  Straight women and gay men watching "Ghastly" should prepare to have their sexuality called into question.  You have been forewarned.

Score summary for Ghastly

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Overall Kpopalypse interest rating: 6.4/10


*

DEATH BELL (aka GOSA)

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Released: 2008
Running time: 85 minutes
Plot synopsis: during mid-term exams, a school comes under lockdown by an unknown person(s) or force.  Students are then made to resit a new mid-term exam as a group, and one student is killed for each answer that is either incorrect or not given within a certain time period.

Appeal to general horror fans: if you just read the above plot synopsis and thought to yourself "well, that sounds completely fuckin' stupid, how is that going to work", your suspicions are not unfounded.  The plot (which only a country as exam-obsessed as Korea could come up with) really does defy logic and has holes in it large enough to drive a school bus through, but the film ends up being excellent anyway, mainly due to a terrific sense of pacing.  In particular the music score is expertly deployed to add a real sense of urgency to the film, and by the time everything kicks into high gear you'll stop asking yourself questions like "but couldn't they just [insert really obvious way for the entire class to save themselves here]" and will be hanging off the edge of your seat waiting for the next hapless panicky student to get speared on something.  It's not on the level of classic Korean horror like "A Tale Of Two Sisters" but it's still damn entertaining.

Appeal to k-pop fans: T-ara's Eunjung is in this film, but only has short appearances as a ghost.  The rest of the k-pop related screen time belongs to Seeya's Nam Gyuri, who does a solid job of looking like a freaked out schoolgirl who doesn't study enough.  Whether that's relevant to you or not will depend on how relevant you consider a group that disbanded in 2011, but it may not matter because...

Appeal to k-pop fappers: ...she isn't unattractive.  Unfortunately the cinematography is also pretty dark and grimy so you don't exactly get much of a good look at her... but she is a 20-something year old girl in a school uniform, so there is that.  You might get some fap time out of this if you enjoy girls screaming and not being able to see them very well.

Score summary for Death Bell

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Overall Kpopalypse interest rating: 4.4/10


*

DEATH BELL 2: BLOODY CAMP (aka GOSA 2)

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Released: 2010
Running time: 85 minutes
Plot synopsis: during mid-term exams, a school comes under lockdown by an unknown person(s) or force.  Students are then made to resit a new mid-term exam as a group, and one student is killed for each answer that is either incorrect or not given within a certain time period.

(You'll notice that I just copied and pasted the plot synopsis that I wrote for the original Death Bell, that's because the screenwriters copy-pasted the plot, too.  Death Bell 2 is a sequel in the fine Asian B-grade cinema tradition of "let's pretend the first film didn't even happen".)

Appeal to general horror fans: Death Bell 2 has the same plot as the original but without the original's sense of pacing and timing, so it bores quickly.  The film tries to compensate by ramping up the gore significantly compared to the first film, and if nothing else you probably won't forget the "motorcycle" scene, but it's not enough.  The acting in the sequel is weaker too.  T-ara's Jiyeon is a main character and spends most of her scenes staring blankly like she doesn't know what the fuck's going on, maybe T-ara had a lot of schedules during the filming and she was just a bit tired... but then the other actors are mainly no better.  There's a reason why they usually cast 20-somthing year old actresses to play schoolgirls - a few extra years of acting lessons makes a difference.

Appeal to k-pop fans: Aside from Jiyeon, T-ara's Boram has some blink-and-you'll-miss-them appearances.  Apparently she had a good six or seven minutes of screen time initially written and shot and was a significant supporting cast member, but then her part was cut to ribbons in the editing room, a practice which is not that uncommon in the film industry generally speaking.  It's a shame to lose her parts in the film probably for the sake of pacing and maintaining audience interest yet for the film to turn out so uninteresting anyway.

Appeal to k-pop fappers: Jiyeon was barely legal in my country when Death Bell 2 was released, which probably means that she was illegal in yours, but then, maybe you're into that sort of thing.  However, just like the first film, Death Bell 2's visuals are grimy as shit and it lacks the kind of clear cinematography necessary for a decent fap in any case.

Score summary for Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp

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Overall Kpopalypse interest rating: 3.4/10


 *

Hopefully you enjoyed this post, and it makes a nice little change from everyone else's reviews of k-drama and stuff that you'll see on every k-pop blog ever.  If you find more k-pop related horror films, let me know and this post might just see a sequel!

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29 comments:

  1. Jiyeon plays a crucial character in the horror drama "Hon" (Soul), and her dead cyclopean eyes are used to very good effect indeed. If you can overlook an ultimately disappointing plot in order to enjoy the spooky atmospheric horror, this is worth watching.

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  2. Oh, and Boram is in it too as a fairly important character.

    Check out these posters, they are cool.
    https://popseoul.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/hon_jiyeon4_20090603.jpg
    https://popseoul.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/hon_jiyeon2_200906031.jpg

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    Replies
    1. Ahhhh this one's a drama rather than a movie which is why I haven't seen it. Thanks for the tip!

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  3. I haven't fully watched any of those movies you mention above. I fast-forwarded to the good parts (Hyomin changing her clothes in the toilet, T-ara at the club and Hyomin in the shower) when I watched Ghastly.

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  4. A Tale of Two Sisters sounds like a rather interesting horror movie. I'm a fan of Asian horror movies and I'll definitely go watch that one - thanks for the tip!

    Props for the originality of the general post, too, one indeed doesn't see k-pop horror movie reviews very often.

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    Replies
    1. ATOTS is one of the classic Asian horror films, and like most classic Asian horror films an inferior Hollywood version was also made. I can't remember the name of the remake though - they changed the name of it for the US.

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    2. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of Hollywood horror anyway. There are a few good flicks, but you can count those on your fingers. I don't consider a movie consisting majorly of gore and splatter horror either. Those tend to be rather disgusting than scary to me.

      I got my hands on the original ATOTS though and I've watched the trailer, so I'm sure I'll be enjoying it with my gals this weekend XD

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    3. You'll like it. Like a lot of the better Japanese horror, it's mainly psychological rather than just gore everywhere.

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  5. You know, I wouldn't mind a slasher film where T-ara goes after SNSD one by one.

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    Replies
    1. There's probably a fanfic out there.

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  6. Since we're talking horror movies,i would like to go on a small tangent and ask if there are any recommendations for asian "mind-warp" movies.You know something along the lines of Oldboy...by the way there's a movie called Snowpiercer directed by a korean guy and also stars Chris Evans.Kinda cool, not on Oldboy level on the "mind-fuck scale" but its as close as I've seen Hollywood come (well....excluding Christopher Nolan's movies).

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    Replies
    1. You might like The Yellow Sea, check that out. It's not completely the same type of thing (nothing is really like Oldboy) but it does have a similar vibe.

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    2. If you're looking for Korean Horror/Thriller I'd say check out Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (it's directed by the same director as Oldboy). I found Shadows in the Palace to be pretty good as a psychological thriller/horror it's not very gory but it has it's moments. If you want to go totally fucked up go watch Bedevilled, it's gory but it's more disturbing because of the characters.

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    3. You might look to Takashi Miike and Sion Sono. Start with Strange Circus from the latter, and take your pick from the prolific Miike's work here, for example: http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2011/04/the-10-craziest-takashi-miike-movies/

      Snowpiercer is by Park Chan Wook the director of Oldboy. He did a great vampire film, Thirst, although it is not quite outright horror, and he also has a segment in the horror anthology Three Extremes - the other parts by Fruit Chan and Miike are good as well.

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  7. Speaking of horror:

    The new Exo videos are horrifying to watch and listen to.

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  8. Thank you Kpopalypse for bringing together two things I love. I actually got introduced to kpop through my love of Asian horror films. I've seen the both the death bells and fast forwarded through a lot of the second one because I found it boring and didn't give a fuck about any of the characters. I've been meaning to watch White Melody and Ghastly but have been too much of a lazy bitch to find good quality english sub downloads/streams.

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    Replies
    1. I just got them all on DVD from YesAsia. It's a more viable option than downloading where I live.

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  9. White was terrible. Who the heck continuous a music program when the MCs were bleeding like momma Godzilla on her period.

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    Replies
    1. It's a horror film. You don't need logic. But yes White is objectively a pretty poor film. I watched it with my girlfriend who is a big horror film fan but doesn't gaf about K-pop and she was like "it took too long for the bitches to die".

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  10. I will look for this movies thank you, let's see if I can find them in Spanish....

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    Replies
    1. Here you go, in Spanish:

      White:

      Part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGWaRC-xhu8
      (rest might be on that person's channel)

      Death Bell (complete): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uf_lzY0see0

      Death Bell2 (complete) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zd8tKoNrMcw

      Can't find Ghastly.

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  11. bloody Kpoppalypse, I watched Ghastly because of this and it was sooo limp, haha.

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    1. I never said it was objectively a good film, just that it had gore and Hyomin's pert boobies and it was okay if you were eating popcorn at the same time and not thinking about it too hard.

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  12. I really like the originality of this post. Last year I had a phase of being all over korean horror. I watched so many movies. But I haven't heard of any new releases in the k-horror genre.

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    Replies
    1. I try to write things that I'm not seeing others write about. This has the unfortunate side effect that often nobody else gives a shit hahahaha

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  14. You forgot to mention SPICA's Jiwon was in Death Bell she was the first to die

    ReplyDelete