A South Korean horror flick centered around a cursed pop song may not sound like something you’d want to see, but it’s actually much better than you might imagine. Directors Kim Gok and Kim Sun’s 2011 supernatural shocker “White: Curse of the Melody” sports an inherently goofy premise, which is essentially just a slight variation on the “cursed videotape” employed by “Ringu” and its ilk. However, instead of simply going through the motions, the filmmakers have fashioned a genuinely effective little thriller, one that, despite my lack of knowledge regarding the South Korea pop music scene, managed to creep me right the hell out on several notable occasions. That’s not a declaration I get to make too often these days, so I’m always excited when the opportunity arises.
“White” follows the musical adventures of the manufactured pop group “Pink Dolls”, a rag-tag band of performers who have recently taken a tumble in the popularity department. After losing a competition to a group called “Pure”, the foursome is pretty bummed out, especially when they notice that nobody is uploading any videos of the performance. Their career, it would seem, has arrived at a very unfortunate standstill. In order to get the girls back on track, their agency sends them to live in a pad that would have the cast members of “The Real World” green with envy. Do they care that the building was once the scene of a horrific fire that claimed several lives? Not really. All they want to do is bitter, fuss, and snipe at one another. Eun-joo, the eldest member of the group, is charged with keeping the younger ladies in line. Unfortunately, since none of them respect their leader, her mission is a bit hard to accomplish. Such is the life of a tortured pop artist.
Career revitalization arrives in the form of a mysterious VHS tape hidden inside a secret closet within the group’s rehearsal space. The cassette contains an undeniably catchy song and a snappy dance routine, one that nobody has heard before. Their boss, a severe woman who is only concerned with success, decides to change the tune up a bit, adapting it to suit the group’s strengths. The ditty, a fierce little number entitled “White”, is an immediate hit. Unfortunately, fame comes with a price in the form of a deadly curse that slowly begins terrorizing the leader singer. Whenever a new girl is appointed to the position, bizarre incidents befall them, as well. Eun-joo, fearing she, too, could fall prey to the curse, begins a perilous quest to unravel the secrets behind the original singer’s untimely demise. Long hair soon follows.
My high praise for “White” comes with a caveat: If you’re violently opposed to slow-moving horror flicks involving adorable South Korean girls singing dance songs, you should probably sit this one out. However, if you’re willing to invest in the characters and ignore the melodramatic nature of the group’s interpersonal relationships, the picture is actually quite rewarding. Sure, it may take 20 minutes or so before the ghostly shenanigans begin to occur, but the plethora of unnerving moments are well worth the wait. And while the finale does reek of another well-known horror flick — think proms and pig blood — Kim Gok and Kim Sun handle the overly familiar material with enough stylish flare to distract you from the fact that you’ve seen it all before. However, after this endeavor, I may have to swear off movies involving haunted VHS tapes for a while. The gimmick is getting old, and, in my humble opinion, it’s not aging very well. Time to move on to something else, I think. Like rotary telephones, for instance. Those things are seriously creepy.
“White: Curse of the Melody” isn’t a game-changer, nor is it trying to be. All the directors have really done is taken the cursed cassette scenario and moved it into the seedy world of the South Korean pop music scene, which, I might add, isn’t exactly portrayed in a positive light. The film is kept afloat by a handful of strong performances from Ham Eun-Jung and Hwang Woo Seul Hye, both of whom bring some much-needed depth to a movie littered with paper-thin characters. “White” is a fun flick, and as long as you don’t mind long stretches in-between scares, you may enjoy this frightening little tale, as well. I can only imagine what this thing will look like if someone decides to give it the proverbial remake treatment here in the US. In fact, forget that I ever mentioned it. After all, I wouldn’t want to implant that extremely bad idea in the head of a big shot Hollywood executive looking for an easy paycheck, though, I fear, I may already be too late.
Kim Gok, Kim Sun (directors)
CAST: Eun-jeong Ham … Eun-joo
Woo-seul-hye Hwang … Soon-ye
Maydoni … Sin-ji
Choi Ah-ra … Ah-rang
Jin Se-Yeon … Je-ni
Jeong-su Byeon … Agency representative
Young-min Kim … Lee Tae-yong