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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
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   Wishing Stairs  


Wishing Stairs

Reviewed by Sinnerman

Korean Title: Yeogo goedam 3: Yeowoo gyedan
Also Known As: Whispering Corridors 3: Wishing Stairs
Director: Yun Jae-yeon
Cast: Song Ji-hyo, Park Han-byeol, Jo An, Park Ji-Yeon
Genre: Horror
Country: South Korea
Language: Korean
Year Released: 2003
Runtime: 97 min
Rating: Zero (out of four)

Wishing Stairs intrigued me no end.

First of all, I cannot deny its obvious art directional achievements. Just look at the wooden floorboards in the girls' dorm corridors. They were so clean. I wondered if brooms or vacuum machines were used to attain that spotless sheen. One can't help but wonder what would be the appropriate maintenance frequency to keep those surfaces so dust-free. In addition, my faith in good old-fashioned carpentry has been reaffirmed by this movie. Just look at the sandpapered smoothness of those floor boards. Its evenly matt colored aesthetics threw up suspicions that intricate care was put into its layered, "along the grain" paint job. I would not have minded watching those paints dry. And most astoundingly, I could not stop ogling at the masterful alignment of those hammered-in wooden planks (which made up the floor boards). The craftsmanship of the unsung artisan, whoever he might be, had thus floored me no end (pun intended). In fact, by the time I truly soaked in the sheer understated beauty of those wooden grounds, I could not stop crying.

On the thematic front, this film packed an even bigger wallop. Truth be told, I was humbled by its empathy for one of my most insecure weaknesses - my inability to count. Though I had been very successful in hiding it so far, this academic challenge had crippled my self-esteem for as long as I could remember. It cut me deep. Watching this film was thus a very painful personal experience. Reason for this emotional devastation was cause I literally had to face my greatest fear head on; to count from "1" thru "29" (which were actually the exact number of stairclimbs needed for the "Wishing Stairs" to wish fulfil the film's protagonists' wishes). As such, imagine my sudden rush of catharsis when the talented actresses in this heartwarming film took me by the hand. With their invaluable guidance and infinite patience, we worked through this arduous counting exercise step by step, number by number. Grateful I would be for all of eternity. I was finally able to count up to "29".

Allow me to declare more therapeutic gifts Wishing Stairs bestowed upon me. For not only did it not condescend my "counting inadequacies", it also subconsciously helped in unleashing my previously untapped talents. During its running length (I didn't bring my watch), I realized that if I concentrate hard enough on the film, I would be able to mentally log down my following week's work schedules, balance my checking account and pontificate on the meaning of life (if any). And guess what? I would still have time to spare after that. So I started to guesstimate on the exact number of people in the cinema hall who shared my sentiments (Yes, my guess was capped at "29", in case you were wondering).

Ladies and germs, my experience with the Wishing Stairs was so unforgettable, I wished I could have shared with all some more of my innermost thoughts. But itÂ’s very late now. And I am getting increasingly scared witless by this film's audacious deconstruction of all things scary about scary movies. Case in point, a scene of an auditioning ballerina (one of the film's main characters) leaping and landing on her toe to the strains of some ominous sounding music. Not wanting to reveal too much before or after that scene, most of us in the theater were in hot anticipation of a coming violent foot fracturing. It never came. Granted, I am somewhat sadistic in hoping to see some nasty "bone piercing out of skin", "blood geysering onto roof" and "screams exploding my ear drums" types of sequences during those foreboding moments. But these hopes probably stemmed more from my personal fault as a human being. For in reconciliation, I think the director might have envisioned a groundbreaking anthropological experiment; to test the audience' threshold for deliberate expectation subversion. In fact, the level of suspense pent up in those pleasure delaying scenes might have permanently stunted my nervous system. Go ahead, try prick me with a needle at the beginning of a movie next time round and I will only scream "Ouch!" by film's end.

In retrospect, Wishing Stairs need to be seen to be believed. Kudos hence need be accorded to the entire cast and crew of this profound masterpiece. In fact, the sensitivity imbued in so many of its masterfully horror "teasing" scenes felt like sex with just the foreplay. I repeat, " never came". Films like these are bound to leave some people gasping for air. But folks, if death by pleasurable asphyxiation is your cuppa, please go see Wishing Stairs. You will be mortally rewarded.