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Wishing Stairs

International - // Unrated // October 29, 2003 // Region 3
List Price: $27.99 [Buy now and save at Yesasia]

Review by Mike Long | posted June 4, 2005 | E-mail the Author
[NOTE: This is a review of a Region 3/NTSC DVD. This DVD may not be playable on your DVD player. Please check to see that your DVD player can play DVDs encoded for Region 3/NTSC prior to purchasing this title.]

The Movie

This may not be a topic that many like to discuss, but Americans can be very egocentric. This attitude can be applied to many areas, even entertainment. We like to think that just because we have Hollywood, that the U.S. has been behind every innovation and important decision in film history. Those who don't like Hollywood would probably state that the studio system instituted greed and the idea of profits over art, including the most dreaded form of this practice -- the sequel. Yet, every country has its share of sequels, spin-offs and film series, and it can argued that any of these were spawned more for commerce than for artistic purposes. For example, there is a series of films from Korea which focus on the strange happenings at an all-girls school, of which Wishing Stairs is the latest. These films demonstrate the fact that sequels are everywhere and that the definition of a "horror film" can be quite vague at times.

Wishing Stairs follows Whispering Corridors (1998) and Memento Mori (1999). As with those films, the action takes place in an all-girls school in Korea (It may actually be the exact same school -- it certainly looks like the school from Whispering Corridors -- but I can't be sure.), but this is the only connection to the other movies. The school appears to be a standard academic setting, but it also has a ballet department as well. Leading to the main dormitory of the school are the "Fox Stairs". This staircase normally has 28 steps. However, at certain times a 29th step will appear and the lucky individual climbing the stairs can have a wish granted.

Jin-sung (Ji-hyo Song) and So-hee (Han-byeol Park) are best friends who are both in the ballet program. However, their friendship is threatened when they both strive to win a scholarship to a Russian ballet school. Meanwhile, their awkward schoolmate Hae-ju (An Jo), who is constantly picked-on because of her size, wishes to the "Fox Stairs" that she lose weight. As she begins to lose weight, it becomes apparent that Hae-ju has an odd fixation on So-hee. After a terrible tragedy occurs at the school, Hae-ju's behavior becomes even more bizarre, and Jin-sung suspects that a supernatural presence may be stalking her.

Whether or not Hollywood has the market cornered on sequels can be debated, but one things is certain -- as a series progresses, we've come to expect less and less from the films. Honestly, how often is the third film in a series the best? But that is the case with Wishing Stairs, a movie which certainly defied my expectations. I'd seen both Whispering Corridors and Memento Mori based on good word of mouth, and found them both to be excruciatingly boring. As far as I'm concerned, these films placed far too much emphasis on the day-to-day happenings at the school and not enough on the ghost story. At the outset, Wishing Stairs appears to be heading for this same pitfall, as the movie is essentially a drama concerning friends who become rival dancers. However the last act becomes more of a straight-ahead ghost story complete with levitating apparitions and one bloody murder. Along with this, there is a sub-plot dealing with possession, so it's apparent that the finale becomes quite a cornucopia of horror.

The problem is that none of it really gels. Some of the ghost shots resemble images from films such as Ringu. The transformation of Hae-ju is distracting because her "fat suit" may be the worst since Helen Chapel's on Wings. The film hits the ground running and there isn't a great deal of character development with the main girls -- especially Hae-ju, who doesn't become a significant part of the film until the second half. This is coupled with the fact that the first half of the film focuses completely on the dramatics of the school and contains nary a sign of horror. The last third of the film is entertaining, but it can't completely overcome the issues raised with the film's fractured opening.

Another issue for U.S. viewers of Wishing Stairs may be a cultural one. This series of films appears to be a study/indictment of the conditions and environments found in all-female schools in Korea. But, like many American viewers, I have no way of gauging the truth or relevance of this angle. I have noticed that adults are almost completely absent in these films and most notably in Wishing Stairs, none of the adults have names, they are simply called "Teacher" or "Mom". The focus on cruel teachers seen in Whispering Corridors is absent from Wishing Stairs, but this film still seems to be saying something about the school system.

Wishing Stairs shouldn't be seen as a horror classic, and it's far from being the best Korean horror film of the last few years, but given the fact that the other films in this series were snore-fests, Wishing Stairs can be seen as an improvement.


Wishing Stairs ascends to DVD from Cinema Service. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as it is stable and free from any notable grain. There are some minor defects from the source print, but these are only small scratches and they appear only occasionally. The picture is sharp and clear, displaying only a minute amount of artifacting. The colors are good and the image is never overly dark.


The DVD contains the original Korean soundtrack in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. Both tracks sound very good, as they deliver clear dialogue and nice musical reproduction. Each track provides a nice display of stereo effects, surround sound action, and bass response. It's not until the last 1/3 of the film that the surround sound and subwoofer action really comes into play. In a direct comparison, both tracks sound very good, with the DTS track being slightly louder. The English subtitles are clear and easy to read and appear to be accurate.


This release of Wishing Stairs from Cinema Service is a deluxe two-disc special edition, which is quite impressive. The keepcase is housed in a sturdy cardboard, which is decorated with some of the comic art that Hae-ju draws in the film. There is also a small comic strip featuring this same art packaged with the DVD. The two-disc set contains a wealth of extras. Unfortunately, NONE OF THE EXTRAS FEATURE ENGLISH SUBTITLES AND THERE IS NO ENGLISH ON THE MENUS AS WELL (save for the "Main Menu" icon). Thus, I will describe the extras as best that I can.

Disc 1 contains two set of Deleted Scenes. The first set contain 14 scenes and runs for a total of 16 minutes. The second set has 7 scenes and is 9-minutes long. This second set is made up of scenes which contain Hae-ju. Be warned that in both sets, the scenes are edited very close together and are not separated in any way. The first disc also contains two Audio Commentaries, but I have no idea who is on them, save for the fact that both seem to contain the young actresses from the movie.

The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 2. Things are kicked off with a Making-of Featurette (35 minutes) which opens with an overview of the first two films and then offers a great deal of behind-the-scenes footage from Wishing Stairs. The DVD contains six Still Galleries -- Promotional Stills (47 images), Production Design (27 images), Set Design (10 images), Locations (8 images), Costume Design (11 images), Comic Art (20 images). The Promotional Material section contains the Trailer and TV Spot for the film (both letterboxed at 1.78:1), a Poster Gallery (5 images) and a 1-minutes video of a photo shoot of promotional pictures. Next up at interviews with Ji-hyo Song, Han-byeol Park, An Jo, and Ji-Yeon Park. There are then 10 separate sections which contain Interviews and Behind-the-Scenes Footage with various members of the crew, such as music, special-effects makeup, and visual FX. Unfortunately, due to the lack of subtitles, it's impossible to tell which area some of the segments are targeting. There is an 8-minute Storyboard reel, as well as Filmographies for the cast & crew. And finally, there's a text section which is completely in Korean.

Proving that the third time can be the charm, Wishing Stairs is a much more well-rounded and entertaining film than Whispering Corridors and Memento Mori. But you still shouldn't expect a truly scary movie. Fans of the film should certainly get this extras-laden DVD, as this is the definitive release of the movie.







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