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Considering what a tired cliché the scary ghost girl with long black hair has become in Asian horror cinema (see: Ringu, Dark Water, Ju-On: The Grudge, etc.), it's frankly surprising that it took this long for someone to make a movie in which the hair itself was evil. Well, here we have it. Korean director Won Shin-yeon gives us The Wig, a spooky tale about a possessed hairpiece and the women it terrorizes. The movie is more or less what you'd expect based on the concept and the current state of Asian horror, but does offer some decent thrills and entertainment value for fans of the genre.
Sickly cancer patient Soo-hyun is released from the hospital after her last batch of chemotherapy, left hairless as expected from the treatment. Hoping to boost her spirits and self-esteem, Soo-hyun's overprotective sister buys her a wig of beautiful long hair. Though the ploy does seem to work, restoring the girl's energy and confidence almost immediately, it also has some disturbing side effects in the form of horrifically gory visions and strange behavior. In spite of the fact that Soo-hyun has stopped taking her meds, her body returns to robust health and brings out a downright slutty side to her personality that no one's seen before. That's what happens while she wears the wig, anyway. As soon as she takes it off, she relapses and can't manage to do much more than curl up in a ball on the floor while blood pours out of her nose. Eww.
As you can imagine, that wig has a tragic history behind it, having been made from the hair of someone who didn't exactly want to give it up while she was still alive. So, yes, the ghost is haunting the hair and taking over Soo-hyun for its own purposes. The complete revelation of that back-story is a little more complicated than it needs to be, attempting to tie together a lot of characters and separate plot strands a bit too conveniently. We're also given some twists about the people in Soo-hyun's life and the truth behind everything they've told and done for her.
The inherent silliness of a haunted wig killing people (both via its wearer and sometimes even on its own) is played down as much as possible. Instead, this goofy conceit is actually played for utmost seriousness. The result is a formulaic horror thriller that offers few surprises despite the convoluted nature of some of the plotting and the jumbled editing. For one thing, sister Ji-hyun seems to have lost her voice before the scene where she suffers a nasty throat injury, leaving much confusion about what actually happened to her and when. The movie also has a couple too many endings; every time you think it's over something new drags it out for a few more minutes.
Nonetheless, The Wig is a slick, polished genre piece with a creepy atmosphere and a few good scares. The ultimate climax is also kind of disturbing. It doesn't break any new ground or even have any ambitions about doing so, but it does go through the motions competently and efficiently enough to warrant a spooky night of movie-watching.
The Korean DVD from CJ Entertainment is hard-coded for Region 3 NTSC playback and will require compatible equipment to operate. The DVD case has mainly Korean text on it, but the disc itself has English-language menus that are easy to navigate.
The anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 picture is very dark (as expected) with OK but not exceptional shadow detail. Colors are intentionally drab and flesh tones pale by conception. Detail is only average, with some light edge enhancement and noticeable compression problems including banding artifacts and noisy grain in bright whites and shots of the sky. The biggest problem with the video transfer, however, is the consistent appearance of speckles on the source elements throughout the length of the movie, which is quite disappointing for such a recent production.
The Korean-language soundtrack is presented in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or half bit-rate 754 kb/s DTS. This is a loud and aggressive sound mix, with impressive use of the surround channels for both creepy directional effects and enveloping ambience. The DTS track in particular has great dynamic range, from the highest highs to deep, thundering bass. Dialogue always remains crystal clear, anchored in the midst of expansive front and rear soundstages.
Optional English or Korean subtitles are available. The English translation is decent but does have a few evident grammatical flaws.
Unfortunately, although the disc does have a handful of bonus features, none of them are English-friendly. We start with an audio commentary in unsubtitled Korean. Following this are a handful of production featurettes on subjects such as a general making-of, a director interview, the special effects, the star getting her head shaved, and a photo shoot for publicity stills. The disc closes with a theatrical trailer and a TV spot, both in non-anamorphic letterbox.
No ROM supplements have been included.
Hardly the best entry in the recent waves of Asian horror, The Wig is slick and efficient enough to deserve at least a rental, if not necessarily a purchase. But if you're in the mood for a scary movie, don't let it "wig" you out (oh come on, you knew that was coming!).
Slim Till Dead