This Korean ghost movie directed by twins Kim Gok and Kim Sun and co-written by the directors and Shin Kwang-Ho, offers up the same old curse of a murder victim formula rampant in modern day Asian Horror. That is not to say though it offers nothing new to the genre and while being fairly predictable in parts it offered a few shocks and scares nonetheless. The movie saw it’s first international screening at the 2011 Vancouver Film Festival followed up by a further showing at the 2012 Fantasia Festival.
While the plot may seem a bit formulaic the Kim brothers take a contemporary spin on the grudge theme by using the premise of a pop idol girl band as the basis for this haunting movie. When idol band Pink Dolls are falling in popularity against rival band Pure, it seems that there is nothing they can do to resurrect their ailing career. That is however until they uncover a mysterious video recording of an unpublicized band labelled only as White, and decide to record the song contained within. It would seem no one can get enough of the song, it is certain the Pink Dolls are about to achieve the success they are so hungry for. As the girls struggle one by one to achieve the spot of the ‘main girl’ things are not going so well after all. Anyone who takes the position of lead befalls some serious bad luck. The girls in turn become more and more bitchy and competitive as the band becomes less of a united front and more of a war zone, and main character Eun-Ju starts to suspect the tape must be cursed.
It is interesting that the Kim twins chose to cast an actual K-Pop idol, Ham Eug-Jeong, in the starring role of Eun-Ju in this movie. Similarly the spot of rival band Pure went to an real life K-Idol band After School. This therefore gives the movie an authentic edge. While I am not particularly a fan of pop music in any form I would imagine this factor gave the film further appeal (especially to fans of the respective musicians involved in the cast). While the majority of the limelight goes on Eun-Ju the supporting characters are strong in their roles, as bitching, self obsessed, vain and attention seeking would be pop stars. First to attempt the post as main girl is Jenny, very concerned with hitting the high notes, but not quite getting there. Ah-Rang lines up next, not as the most outstanding singer, but as the prettiest girl, and plays her part well as a vain and somewhat big-headed individual who is not afraid of stating out loud to the rest of the band members that she is far more attractive than they are. Shin-ye tackles the role of main not as a singer at all, but as the best dancer, as she gets wrapped up in practicing for her performance and finds it impossible to take a break as she strives for perfection. None of the girls are particularly likeable, but then that is the nature of their performance, and therefore I would say they play out their roles perfectly to the point where some of the characters get slightly annoying as the plot develops. If the members of the Pink Dolls are unscrupulous they take their lead from their hard-hearted manager who has no sentiment when it comes to business and only makes matters worse by pushing a succession of girls into the position of lead as a spate of unfortunate incidents befalls one after the other. As Eun-Ju and her friend Soon-Ye struggle to get to the truth behind the original performance of White, no one else seems to regard the situation as possibly dangerous as they are all too fixed on fulfilling their own selfish agendas.
The first half an hour or so of this movie is quite slow. I have to admit it did not immediately grab me and I started to wonder where it was all going. It was obvious that the tape was going to have some consequences for those involved, but there was not really an effective build up of tension as the movie started out. When the shocks come though they do in great Asian horror style. The mundane atmosphere of the first part almost lulls you into a false sense of security. I found that even though I realised the plot had progressed to a stage where the frights were going to be played out I had not had time to mentally prepare myself, thus almost leaping out of my seat in horror when the first scare reared its head. This came as a welcome relief as I had almost got to the point where I had lost interest altogether however from this point onward I found myself fairly gripped as the rest of the story unfolded.
Productionwise White is very stylistic and plays out in parts much like a pop video which is nicely in keeping with the K-Idol theme. The effects do not come over as cheap CGI and work brilliantly in most cases, although are not completely flawless but this was a minor niggle. There is some recycling of stock Asian horror scare type effects but then that is to be expected from this type of movie. The use of the recording studio and mirrors and windows in and around it provides a perfect base for the tension to develop. Likewise the makers make good use of the claustrophobic nature of crowds, crammed in dance studios and performances to set the scene. Overall the high fashion pop world of the Pink Dolls makes a good contrast to the horror which ensues as the story develops.
All in all while not remotely original as far as Asian horror movies go White is still a fairly effective and better than average effort with some genuinely creepy moments. The use of the pop idol scenario does however provide a different edge to a well-played out idea of the ghost/curse storyline. The movie also allows an interesting insight into the pop industry where getting the right look is everything, and individuality and humanity takes a side line as it does nothing to add to the already over inflated profit margins of pop music producers. The Pink Dolls are nothing more than products in an uncaring market and in an effort to achieve fame and fortune literally put everything on the line. Enjoyable and entertaining if you do not go into watching it expecting the next Ringu but nevertheless worth picking up.