Dead Friend (aka The Ghost, 2004) Movie Review

If you’re not too hung up on originality, “The Ghost” isn’t too much a waste of time. Oh sure, it’s yet another Dark Hair Ghost Story, where the ghost at hand is a vengeful female that keeps showing up in the background, standing with her hair draped over her face, and you never really see how she manages to kill people. Which brings me to this: seeing a ghost with long black hair covering her face might startle me for a moment, but I’m not so sure if I would be scared enough to die of fright. So call me callous, but I’d think the ghost would have to show me she could actually do something other than just stand in the background looking creepy. Maybe it’s just me, but these Asian ghosts always seem to be more bark than bite.

“The Ghost” stars Ha-Neul Kim (“My Tutor Friend”) as Ji-won, a college student who doesn’t remember much about her past. She’s suffering from amnesia, and visits to her doctor haven’t yielded any results. Ji-won lives with her creepy mother in a creepy old house, and when her ex-classmates from high school start dying one by one, Ji-won believes someone, or something, is coming after them. As Ji-won begins an investigation, she comes across Mi-kyeong (Yi Shin), another one of her ex-classmates, who is currently hospitalized and refuses to touch or drink water. And how exactly does Ji-won’s ex-friends keep dying? Well, they all seemed to have been…drowned?

First of all, don’t get your hopes up. “The Ghost” is the umpteenth recycling of the Long Dark Hair Ghost Story, with a female heroine haunted by a ghost, forcing her to uncover the past before she, too, becomes a victim. The ghost is, as mentioned, a creepy girl with long dark black hair, and the film’s first death even opens with a familiar scene — long strands of dark hair clogging up a sink. (As if we haven’t already gotten more than enough of this in “Dark Water”.) In any case, director Tae-kyeong Kim is working from recycled material, and as was the case with “Face”, you’re not going to get anything particularly original here.

Although it’s interesting to mention “Face”, because that film, as well as “The Ghost”, basically retreads familiar ground but does so in such a way as to set up a Big Twist Ending in an attempt to, one suspects, be mildly different. Not surprisingly, the two film’s respective Big Reveals are their only contributions to the genre, and for much of its 90 minutes, “The Ghost” is nothing you haven’t seen in, say, the last 500 South Korean horror films that have tried to cash in on the public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for stories involving female ghosts with long dark hair and a pissed off disposition.

“The Ghost” actually has a lot in common with the “Whispering Corridors” franchise, and might have worked better as another sequel to the popular “ghosts in girls high school” series. As Ji-won investigates her own forgotten past, she comes to realize that she wasn’t always the nice girl we know her as. Back in high school, Ji-won ran with a clique that did some horrible things to people. One girl in particular, named Su-in (Sang-mi Nam), was at the wrong end of some cruel bullying. Wanting desperately to join the popular clique, Su-in did everything, but was always turned away. A year ago, Su-in disappeared, never to be seen again. Coincidence? Yeah, right.

At this point, one would be justified in thinking that South Korean filmmakers have a template from which to work from. Like the Slasher genre, the Asian Long Dark Hair Ghost Stories basically utilizes the same tried and true conventions over and over again. The only contributions to the genre seem to be coming up with a unique Twist Ending to tie up all loose ends. Speaking of which, the Big Twist in “The Ghost” is a bit convoluted and more than a little hard to swallow. Then again, I suppose being scared of a ghost with long dark hair who just seems to keep showing up in the background is also pretty hard to swallow, so there you go.

“The Ghost” is really nothing you haven’t seen before. It has a twist at the end, and director Tae-kyeong Kim probably uses an obscene amount of the cheap gimmicks filmmakers in the genre uses to make the audience jump — in particular, loud screeching music. If you’re easy to scare, “The Ghost” might get you jumping, although you’ll probably feel cheated when you realize you didn’t jump because of anything scary happening onscreen, but because the movie suddenly turned up the volume by a factor of 500.

But fear not: if you’ve seen enough of these films, the movie telegraphs all of its “Boo” moments from at least a mile away. Wait, that girl is all alone, and the light just mysteriously turned off by itself. Okay, now she’s turning, very slowly. Oooh, I wonder if the ghost will appear behind —

Yup. You probably guessed it.

Tae-kyeong Kim (director)
CAST: Ha-Neul Kim …. Ji-won
Sang-mi Nam …. Su-in
Bin …. Eun-seo
Yi Shin …. Mi-kyeong
Hie-ju Jeon …. Yu-jeong
Yun-ji Lee …. Eun-jeong

Buy Dead Friend on DVD