Wishing Stairs

Starring: Song Ji-Hyo, Park Han-Byeol and Jo An
Tartan Asia Extreme
RRP: 19.99
TVD 3622
Certificate: 18
Available 23 January 2006

Close to a residency girls' school are some ancient steps. Local legend has it that once you have counted your way up the 28 steps a 29th one may occasionally appear, and if it does you can ask the steps to grant you a wish. Jin-sung and So-hee are close friends at the school, but the former evolves the relationship into something approaching possession. She even wishes from the stairs that they would always be together. Both attend ballet lessons and So-hee sees a competition (the winner of which will be sent to a Russian ballet school) as the means for a clean break. During an argument Jin-sung is shrugged off by her former friend and falls down the school staircase to her death. So-hee wins the ballet competition but is shunned by the other students, who see her as being responsible for the other girl's death. Most upset is Hae- Ju, an overweight girl ridiculed by everyone except Jin-sung, who had treated her sympathetically. Hae-Ju is transformed by the stairs when she wishes for a loss of weight. Now Jin-sung is back from the dead and Hae-Ju is her tool of malice. Perhaps there is a way for Jin-sung and So-hee to be together forever after all...

This supernatural tale of revenge from Korea shares certain plot points with Whispering Corridors, while being infinitely more entertaining. That's because like every good story it concentrates on the characters. We learn what makes the main players tick; how they think, and how others react to them. The ghost story and the urban legend are merely means to an end.

Although Wishing Stairs works very well it does lose control a couple of times and fall into the trap of what it thinks people are expecting to see. The floating ghost of Jin-sung, for example, and more specifically when she crawls through a window space in an almost exact copy of Ring, in which Sadako crawls out of the TV. There's a fine line between paying tribute and outright plagiarism; whatever the case, there's simply no need for it in a film which quite comfortably sustains itself as it is. Okay, so there's no outright shocks, but it is entertaining and it is a people-story well told.

Again we have another fine release from Tartan Asia Extreme, and again some confusion over the extras. The packaging describes Director's Sketchbook and Notes, Original Theatrical Trailers, a Photo Gallery and Justin Bower Film Notes - none of which are on the disc. And instead of one featurette we get four (First Position - Ballet lessons and acting as an instructor; Sketching Stairs - Animation and creating Hae-Ju's cartoon book; Fitting In - Applying fat make-up and prosthetics; and Unique Music - Creating mood pieces with originally constructed instruments).

Ty Power

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