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Total Crap: 14.29%

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White: The Melody of the Curse
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by Jay Seaver

"I'm not sure killing off a prefabricated girl group counts as horror, guys."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: A girl-group horror movie isn't really a bad idea at all: You've got pretty girls, who are highly competitive by nature to fuel any issues between them, and a bunch of settings and situations where people could be killed or maimed that haven't really been mined that much. The cyclical nature of the business makes something coming from the past a potentially nifty hook. Hopefully someone else will give it a go, because it can be done much better than "White".

Pink Dolls isn't a bad girl group, but in the competitive Korean pop music scene, it's too consciously cute compared to the more overtly sexy likes of Pure et al. Still, one agent (Pyeon Jung-su) sees something in them, moving them into a house to practice together in preparation for upcoming talent competitions and TV spotlights. It's there that Eun-ju (Ham Eun-jung), the oldest of the group in her mid/late twenties, discovers an old VHS tape that features an unknown group performing "White", a catchy tune that could still work today. So they appropriate it, with energy-drink-addicted Jenny (Jin Se-yeon), pretty face A-rang (Choi Ah-ra), and bitchy former Pure back-up Shin-ji (Kim May Doni) vying to be lead vocal. Ah, but it appears the song is cursed, with Eun-ju and best friend/voice coach Sun-ye (Hwang Woo Seul-hye) discovering that the group that recording it died in a fire... In this. Very. House!

The twenty-first century music industry and manufactured groups like Pink Dolls are perhaps easy targets, but that doesn't mean they aren't still ripe ones. To a certain extent, I must plead ignorance; I didn't pay much attention to the likes of MTV and pop music when I was young enough for it to be targeted to me, and that's American pop. Modern Korean pop seems like a different, even more regimented beast, and for all I know, things like the "Survival Challenge" reality TV show mean a lot more to White's native audience than a guy pushing 40 on the other side of the planet. Filmmaker brothers Kim Sun and Kim Gok still score a few points even I can catch, though, with somewhat pointed observations on just what a machine pop music is and how cutthroat things are even within a single group, while also showing enough of the commitment and hard work necessary to make the characters sympathetic.

The thing is, the Kims are also trying to make a horror movie, and they sometimes seem to have a very hard time putting together a good one. There's a rhythm to these things, popping jump scenes in at the right moment, building up people losing their minds while still leaving enough room to shock the audience when the bottom actually does fall out, setting horrible things up and showing it on screen - that the Kims really seem to struggle with. They over-complicate things, with certain characters being taken off the board but not actually being dead, showing back up, and then being killed practically off-screen. It's got moments - the gal behind me did, in fact, jump, and there's one kill that elicited a sadistic smile - but <i>White</I> is often an argument that this isn't as easy as it looks.

The cast isn't bad. Ham Eun-jung may feel like stunt casting in Korea (she's a member of "T-ara" when not acting), but she's a likably insecure protagonist here, working especially well with Hwang Woo Seul-hye to create a believable, tight friendship in a genre that sometimes doesn't do that well. Kim May Doni, Jin Se-yeon, and Choi Ah-ra occasionally have a hard time differentiating themselves beyond what the script does to make their falling victim to the curse ironic, but manage well enough. Peyon Jung-su and Kim Young-min make themselves memorable in smaller roles.

Maybe folks who know and love/hate K-pop (or pop music in general) will get enough from the satiric elements to enjoy "White" more than I did. Heck, maybe that will even make the horror elements better. I kind of doubt the latter, though - this seems very much like a case of an interesting idea for a movie falling victim to not really knowing how the genre works.

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originally posted: 08/31/12 15:33:21
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.

User Comments

9/05/12 Samuel this one sucked. 1 stars
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Directed by
  Sun Kim
  Gok Kim

Written by
  Sun Kim
  Gok Kim

  Eun-jeong Ham
  Woo-seul-hye Hwang
  Ah-ra Choi
  Se-yeon Jin

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