Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hidden Floor: Another Asian Hair Ghost Movie

Hidden Floor  (2006) is a Korean production which, while enjoyable, breaks no new ground in the genre of vengeful Asian female ghosts with long black hair covering their faces (onryō).  Apparently, the wild-haired nature of these ghosts comes from the fact that traditionally, Japanese women only let their hair down when being buried.  Hence, long hair, and usually a white funeral shroud, became synonymous with frightening spirits...  like this one:

 However, many Asian horror viewers have called for a little more variety after seeing onryō in Ju-on, the American remakeDark Water, the American remake of that, Ringu, the American remake of that, and numerous others. 

Hidden FloorAnyway, on to the film in question.  Hidden Floor is the story of single mother Min-young (Seo-hyeong Kim) and her six year old daughter Juhee (Yoo-jung Kim), who move into a new apartment in a recently renovated but underpopulated apartment building.  Juhee remarks that there is no fourth floor button in the elevator, and her mother explains that "four" sounds like "death" in Chinese; hence there is no fourth floor.  Or... is there?

Soon, strange noises from beneath the floor, the crazy-eyed neighbor with a bagful of syringes, mysterious deaths, and the onryō's appearance start wearing on Min-young's nerves.  Juhee, on the other hand, starts getting weird and proclaims that she never wants to leave.  One of the nice touches of the film is that it plays not only on traditional fears, but also the fears of working parents: child neglect, untrustworthy babysitters, and so on.

The concept of a hidden floor is also a nice one, and there are a few good scares.  There are also too many "boo!" moments, but the film does manage to sustain an atmosphere of dread for a while.  Some of the scenes and plot devices are a little reminiscent of The Shining, and the apartment building's florescent lights serve to make the shadows more scary.  However, the film turns into a typical vengeful ghost story, in which the hidden floor isn't really necessary.  It ends up being entertaining, but could easily be confused with many other films in the onryō genre.    

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