Rating 4

Written and directed by Kim Tae-gyeong

Starring Kim Ha-neul, Ryu Jin, Jeon Hye-bin, Nam Sang-mi, Shin-ee, Lee Yoon-ji, Kim Hae-suk, Ran Choi and Gi Ju-bong

Min Ji-won (Kim Ha-neul) is a second year university Sociology student. She is suffering from dissociative amnesia following an accident and has no memory of her life before that. Her plan to leave university and go away is greeted with anger by her mother. Nobody will answer her questions and her only friend at university, Park Jun-ho (Ryo Jin), seems to know more about her past than he lets on, but he avoids giving straight answers to her questions. She has disturbing dreams and visions and she discovers that two former friends from high school have died in bizarre circumstances. She begins to retrieve snippets of her memories and the truth about her past slowly emerges.


‘Ryeong’ is also known as ‘Dead Friend’ and ‘The Ghost’. The copy I have uses this latter title. It’s a South Korean horror film, very similar in style to Japanese films like ‘The Ring’, ‘Ju-on: The Grudge’ and ‘Dark Water’, although it is immediately noticeable that the social mores depicted are very different. Released in 2004, it was the debut film of writer-director Kim Tae-gyeong (also known as Tae-kyeong Kim).

I came across this DVD in my local Oxfam charity shop. I had not heard of it before, but because I like Japanese horror and other associated films such as ‘The Eye’ trilogy and ‘The Ring Virus’, the South Korean remake of ‘The Ring’, I decided to give it a go. In truth, I was not expecting too much from it and it sat on a shelf for some time before I finally took the plunge and watched it. I am glad I did, because I really enjoyed it.

The film does not offer anything that cannot be found in the Japanese films I have mentioned. A female ghost figure, more or less
identical to the onryƍ seen in ‘The Ring’, is featured, as is the presence of water, a common theme in Japanese horror films, as a kind of conduit for the vengeful spirit. In this respect, it is clearly rather derivative, or, at least, treading a well-worn path, but it is also very likeable and really rather well done. It even manages to mix in a few moments of humour here and there. I was, to be honest, a little confused during the early scenes as I tried to piece together the story as it unfolded, but it soon began to take shape. It proved to be a satisfying premise, complete with a neat little twist.

As an alternative to my view of the film, Kyu Hyun Kim, writing in the online Korean newspaper OhmyNews International, suggests that the film, “Represents the nadir of contemporary Korean horror cinema, ravaged by the strains of a PSC (Pointless Sadako Clone) virus and put together in such a slapdash manner that it might serve as an object lesson in how not to make a generic horror film.”

Kim Tae-gyeong has made one more film to date, ‘Muoi’, which was released at the end of 2007. This was filmed mainly in Vietnam and although ostensibly a South Korean production, it is said to be the first Vietnamese horror film. It has apparently caused some controversy and was not universally well received.

Review posted 9 March 2009


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