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South Korea 2004


Kim Tae-kyeong

Kim Ha-neul
Nam Sang-mi
Shin Yi
Jeon Hie-ju
Lee Yun-ji
Kim Hae-suk
Choi Ran
Gi Ju-bong
Ryu Jin

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Dead Friend

aka Ghost

Story: Ji-won (Kim Ha-neul) is a sociology student. It all goes so well for her, that she wants to continue her studies abroad. The main reason for her decision is that she just wants to escape her present life. Ji-won is suffering from amnesia. She can't remember anything before a particular accident she had. What kind of accident it was, she can't remember either and even her doctor can't help her.
Ji-won starts to see strange things and it seems that she is haunted by a ghost. In search for her past, she discovers, that she has been the leader of a little clique, of which two of the members mysteriously drowned, recently. The third and last member Mi-kyeong (Shin Yi) is now a patient in a mental hospital, who doesn't tolerate any water in her surroundings. Ji-won is told by her, what she has already been hinted at by some other persons. Ji-won seems to have done something terrible in her past life.
Further research lead Ji-won to the girl Su-in (Nam Sang-mi), who oftentimes had been bullied by the clique, and one day dissappeared without a trace...

Review: "Dead Friend" does in no way reinvent the wheel. After all those years, it seems that one still holds onto the "girl with long black hair" horror-formula. I can't understand that and so to me this is the one big weak point of the movie. Here and there the makers of the movie stole so obviously from similar movies, that it's a pain. There is hair that is drawn out of the duct ("Dark Water" sends its regards), ghosts who come out of a plash and similar predictable "Ring"-style horror. Of course, this still works pretty well and "Dead Friend" at least manages to copy professionally, but this is a movie that could have become a true highlight of the genre, if it would have had a more inventive horror motive than the longhaired girl.

The narration of the movie is well done. We are introduced to Ji-won's life, get to know her only friend, and after some strange incidents we go on a search for her past.
Of course, her search isn't that easy. Ji-won seems to have done something terrible, but the viewer can't imagine that our protagonist could have been able to do something like that. When we start to learn more about Ji-won and her clique, we discover that Ji-won wasn't always the likable girl she is now. In her past life, she truely was a little devil. Together with her friends she bullied a lot of girls and made life a rough time for them.
The mystery about what caused Ji-won's amnesia is slowly solved with the use of some flashbacks. Until then, there are some creepy moments and it might also happen that you have to cry out loud in fear. Like already mentioned, the horror scenes are done quite well and can make you hide underneath the blanket after watching this film. Unless you watched too much of this kind of movie and are already immune to the "longhaired ghost".

"Dead Friend" has a good cast. Kim Ha-neul ("My Tutor Friend"), famous for her roles in comedy romances, shows that she is also familiar with the horror genre. She crys, panics and looks more afraid than most of her actress collegues. Especially her portrayal of the double role as Ji-won before and after her amnesia is in every way convincing. She manages to cope the nice, but somewhat introverted Ji-won, as well as her sadistic and insidious alter ego. With giving us just one certain sort of smile, we know which one of the two is momentary on the screen, and if we are in a flashback or in the present.
Apart from her, the rest of the cast does also give us solid or good performances. Some of the mentionable actors are Nam Sang-mi as the pitiful and poor Su-in and Shin Yi as one of the former friends of Ji-won.

Besides the well done directing of first-time director Kim Tae-kyeong, who is also responsible for the script, the picture is thrilling and stands out because of some nice cinematography. A general soft green- and blueish picture provides the necessary creepy atmosphere. There are also some settings that are pretty well chosen. Above all else, the big and dark mansion has to be mentioned, where Ji-won lives with her mother. Even though the movie seldomly plays in this mansion, the atmosphere in this house is always somewhat depressing and frightening.

The score is also well done and accompanies the events adequately, which also means that it suddenly gets louder at the right time and let's you jump off your chair. If you turn down the volume or even turn it off, you barely will be scared, so it's in your best interest to turn it loud!
The best thing of the movie is the ending. This one has several twists and even catched me completely off-guard, because I didn't expect that much of a clever story in the end. Suddenly, certain little scenes from the beginning become important, story parts are mixing to a completely new whole, and the viewer has to watch out, that he doesn't miss anything because of amazement. IMHO, the ending is one of the most satisfying of the genre, even if the movie can't resist to add another revelation right at the end, to follow certain horror movie rules.

"Dead Friend" is, concerning the horror-motive, made according to familiar horror-formulas, but nonetheless scores with good shocking moments and a great picture. The story is also pretty nice and the ending is done very well. Horror-fans will get their money's worth!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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