aka White: Melody of Death
Directors/Screenplay – Kim Gok & Kim Suk, Producer – Choi Dooyoung, Photography – Kwon Sangyun, Music – S.tiger, Production Design – Lee Jongpill. Production Company – CJ E&M Pictures/Doo Entertainment
Eunjung Hwang (Choi Eun-joo), Hye Wooseul (Soon-ye), Maydoni (Shin-je), Choi Ara (Ah-rang), Jin Seyeon (Jenny), Byun Jungsoo (Agency Representative), Gi-Bang Kim (Manager)
The South Korean girl pop group The Pink Dolls are down on their luck. Their manager gets them the use of a recording and rehearsal studio at bargain rates because it was burned in a fire a year ago. Eun-joo, who is resented by the other teenage girls because she is a former backdancer and over the age of twenty, finds a locker containing old videotapes. She becomes fascinated with a recording of a performance of a song named ‘White’ by the singer Jang Yae-bin who died in the fire. Their manager decides to use the song as the basis of The Pink Dolls’ next single. This suddenly turns their luck around and they become big again. However, something starts causing each of the girls to befall a nasty fate – poisoning their medicine and cosmetics or causing accidents. At first, the girls suspect it is one of the others in the group, jealous at being overlooked as lead singer for the song, but it soon becomes apparent that it is a supernatural agency at work.
The J (or Japanese) horror phenomenon took off in the 00s with the huge success of Ring (1998). There were a great many copies, not just in Japan, but throughout the Asian region, particularly in South Korea – and then the Hollywood remakes kicked in. Indeed, South Korea even produced their own unofficial version of Ring with The Ring Virus (1999), as well a number of successful ghosts stories of their own with the likes of Into the Mirror (2003), Phone (2003), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), The Uninvited (2003), Dead Friend/The Ghost (2004) and The Red Shoes (2005), among others. Some of these even attained their own Hollywood remakes – Into the Mirror became Mirrors (2008), A Tale of Two Sisters became The Uninvited (2009), while Phone is also slated for English-language remake.
White is another variant on Ring. Where Ring has the spirit of a dead girl emerging out of a tv broadcast, White has the spirit of a dead girl emerging out of a pop song and audio tapes. In both films, the dead girl’s spirit reaches out of the past and into the present, infecting everyone it touches with its evil.
White holds interest initially. It offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the way that a K-pop (a phenomenon largely unknown to Western audiences) girl group is constructed, stage managed in every detail, and the intense rivalry and catty bitcheries that go on between the girls in the group – in one amusing touch, the other girls regard Eunjung Hwang as over the hill because she is older than twenty. The Kim brothers direct the scenes of the group performing with a good deal of visual dazzle and the film shows an acute insight into the pressures and cynical business of the way such a phenomenon works.
Far less interesting is when White tries to work as a ghost story. It is a competent copy of the basics of Ring, no more, no less. The Kim brothers produce some average shocks. There is the odd moment – the image of Jin Seyeon hanging in the recording booth, her voice caught in the loop of a shrieking gasp, or of Maydoni being attacked by a series of reflections in a mirror – but nothing that particularly stands out. The twist explanation that connects everything together can easily be seen coming in advance.