Death Bell

((summary taken from azntv))
고死 : 피의 중간고사 / Gosa

A chi-chi private high school, which actively encourages cutthroat competition among the student body by, for instance, publicly displaying their exam score rankings, selects twenty elite members and organizes a boot camp of sorts, to prepare for an international student exchange event.

To their chagrin, the students, including rebellious heroine Ina (the singer Nam Gyu-ri), her timid best buddette Myong-hyo (Son Yeo-eun) and her wannabe-boyfriend Hyun (the sit-com idol Kim Beom), and the teachers, uptight English teacher So-young (Yoon Jeong-hee, TV's Happy Woman) and popular Korean instructor Chang-wook (Lee Beom-soo, City of Violence) find themselves stuck inside the school. Somebody is kidnapping students one by one, in the order of their midterm score ranks, and killing them. The gruesome ways in which they die are broadcast via the school AV system: the only way to prevent the hideous murders is to find correct solutions to the culprit's "exam questions" in time.

Cast: Lee Beom-Su, Yun Jeong-Hee, Nam Gyu-Ri, Kim Beom
Director: Director Chang

My Rating:

To be honest, I was disappointed with this movie.

For one, after reading the summary and watching the first five minutes, I got the impression that it was going to be a lot like Battle Royale or even Saw. Instead it turned out to be just another Whispering Corridors-type clone, and not a very good one. The concept seemed original at first glance (at least for a typical Korean horror movie); however, what starts out as a promising premise is quickly overshadowed by a ton of horror movie clichés, and many unanswered (and stupid) explanations.

Personally, I liked the idea of students being kidnapped one by one, and how the class was being forced to work together and solve the puzzles in order to save them. Unfortunately, the writer and director started taking it in a different direction shortly after the game was introduced. Rather than having the class play the game like it's set up, it follows the typical horror trend... students rebel, groups start to split up, a crazy kid stalks the campus... and the game becomes secondary with only two or three people actually bothering to play. Instead we're forced to sit through some dumb investigation while several of the main characters search for the culprit.

That, and I STRONGLY disliked the ending...


First, to clear up any confusion, here's a short summary of what occurs:

Ina's best friend, Ji-won, was murdered last spring. She was killed by her teacher Mr. Kim because she saw him taking bribes from some of the students parents (they'd give him money and in exchange he'd give them the answers to the exam questions.) This is why Ji-won's ranking suddenly fell from first place to sixth (the five students in front of her were the ones cheating). Because her family was in debt, she needed the best grades to get a scholarship for College, so she confronted Mr. Kim and threatened to go to the Principal. Because he was greedy and afraid of losing his job, he killed her and made it look like a suicide instead. However, a male classmate witnessed it but never came forward. Because of this, he is haunted by the ghost of Ji-won (and seems to see the ghost whenever he looks at Ina).

During the special after-school class, it is Ji-won's mother and father who are kidnapping, killing, and forcing the students to solve the riddles (Ji-won's father is the security guard, and her mother is the glassy-eyed, ghost-like woman in the white dress.) They are taken in the order they ranked last spring, and the clues all revolve around Ji-won and what they believe led to her death. For some reason the murder was recorded on Ji-won's phone, but all they could see of the murderer was a bear-keychain he wore. Mr Kim kills Ji-won's mother before they can uncover the identity of the murderer, so her father threatens everyone at the school-assembly the next day, forcing Mr. Kim's confession. Mr. Kim is then killed, and Ji-won avenged.

Ina's "boyfriend" Kim Bum (lucky girl) died after being killed by the crazy-haunted-student. So maybe that's the only death that can really be contributed (albeit, indirectly) to the ghost.

In the final scene, the class rankings are revealed and Ina is in first place. It turns out that Ji-won has been possessing her since the beginning (likely it happened during her dream, right before she started her period). No idea why . . . maybe she wanted to complete her unfinished business and finally get her first-place ranking back. Or maybe they just wanted a shock!ending. Who knows.

In any case, the fact that they combined Ji-won's haunting with her parents' murder-mystery-killing-game, is what I really disliked. It's obvious there's something supernatural going on, but instead of focusing on that, they choose to give us a "realistic" motive for the game . . . which just makes the whole thing seem ridiculous and stupid. It's a convenient plot twist, and one that doesn't make much sense when you sit down and think about it.

I mean, sure, any parent who learns their child was murdered would be upset and want revenge (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance knows exactly how to go about this), but the way they attempted it here was outrageous and unbelievable. We're talking about a family that couldn't even handle debt-problems, but we're supposed to believe they were able to completely commandeer an entire school, cut off all communication to the outside world, create a series of highly complex riddles, and kidnap every kid they needed (and in order) without getting caught?? 

And how did they even know to target the students by their spring rankings in the first place? Wouldn't that require foreknowledge of the bribing-parents-scandal? And if they knew about that, why wouldn't they know which teacher was behind the bribery? The parents were quick enough to rat him out in the auditorium, why didn't they just target the guilty students and their parents outside of the school, and force them to reveal who the corrupt teacher was that way? Why create such an elaborate, dangerous game that would have an insanely high chance of failure? It's just so stupid. Especially since they still gave us a ghost-haunting anyway (not to mention the ghost could've gotten the same results, while being more realistic in the context of a horror movie.)

This is how the movie should have gone:

It's spring. We're shown the auditorium. Slowly the camera pans in on the dead girl. We hear a scream as her body's discovered - fade to black. 

The movie starts off the same way: the creepy dream, followed by the exam and its results. The special classroom of brilliant students is formed, and then the game begins. The killer is the ghost - forget about her stupid parents. She was murdered, everyone thinks it was suicide, the school's still corrupt, and she's pissed. She locks everyone in the classroom and forces them to answer her exam questions. Each is somehow related to her death, and each time a question is over, she takes another one of the cheating students - plucks them right out of the room, in front of everyone, and they can't stop her - because she's a ghost. The final student and the final question reveal who the killer was - she possesses her best friend and kills the teacher. Kim Bum doesn't die. And Ji-won's ghost is finally able to rest in peace. 

Everyone's happy. Except the people who are dead, and the ones who survived who now need psychiatric help.

In my version, realism wouldn't have even been a factor. And most importantly, we could have been spared the horribly cliché, pathetic, overused ending.


Still, I can't say it's exactly a bad movie. The acting is top-notch, and the directing is pretty good (though the constant shaking during some scenes was distracting). And at least you can tell they tried to make an interesting script. I just wish they had kept it more supernatural, and not tired so hard to explain the reasons behind the quiz/puzzles.

Oh well, at least I finally got to see Kim Bum in something. Ever since I heard he's going to be in the Korean Drama version of Hana Yori Dango, I've been curious to see how he acts. And in this movie, he was one of my favorite characters.

Overall, it's not a bad movie to watch if you feel like watching a horror movie. Just don't expect it to be any different from the hundreds of other Korean horror movies out there. Watch it only for entertainment, not to find the next breakthrough in Korean horror.


  1. sO sweet my little pranker lol

  2. Well, that was a really informative speech. I was looking for explanation on the possess girl ending, but this would do. Bravo, I congratulate you on the ...

    really extensive opinionated and (ironically) boring movie spoiler/random movie "guide".

  3. @Anonymous

    haha, of course it was boring - look at the source material I had to work with. And it's MY personal review . . . of course it's going to be opinionated, moron. :P

  4. But Who's The Killer?

  5. @Anonymous

    Ji-won's parents were the ones killing the students (the security guard was her father, and her mother was the ghost-like woman with the glassy eye). The teacher Mr. Kim is the one that killed Ji-won because she threatened to turn him in for accepting bribes from some of the parents. And the ghost of Ji-won haunted the boy who witnessed her murder, driving him insane. In the end it's also revealed she's been possessing Ina all along so that she could reclaim her first place class standing.


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