Voice

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Voice is obviously a horror movie in that it deals with ghosts and supernatural occurances, but it doesn’t quite scare you. It’s more of a sad movie about not wanting to be forgotten, rejection, and revenge. It plays like a melodrama and mystery at times, tugging at your heartstrings rather than filling you with horror. I’m not really a fan of horror films and so I haven’t been that exposed to Asian horror movies, so I’m not so sure if that is really a characteristic of Asian horror films.

 

Horror films tend to focus on the woman as the other, as the monster, and in that way, this movie isn’t really that different since its “monster” or antagonist was female. However, the rest of the characters are also female. There are practically no male characters, as even the minor characters tended to be female. Even the love angle involved no men: the original student with the voice, a girl, fell in love with the music teacher, who was also female. This was quite taboo, since as far as I know, Asian countries tended to be on the conservative side. Plus, that girl was also bullied for being a lesbian. But this issue wasn’t that central to the movie, rather it was something that gave motivation to one of the characters and was the reason why one of the ghosts didn’t immediately lose their voices.

 

Voice begins with the death of the “protagonist”, Young-eon, and then proceeds with her struggle to find out what happened to her. It turns out that she is actually the antagonist, the villain who looks out for no one but herself in the end. The woman who dares to look is usually punished as women are not supposed to look. Here, the women who were punished were the ones who dared to go against norms. The original ghost was punished for falling in love with her teacher, Young-eon was punished for her multiple personality disorder and driving her mother and the music teacher to suicide, and Seon-min was punished for trying to help Young-eon. These were things that all of them were not supposed to do, and because they did, they all ended up punished. Only Young-eon sort of triumphed, but even she didn’t get what she really wanted, which was to live again. She had to possess Seon-min and bring down the very person who was originally the only person who was willing to help her.

 

Horror films tend to be disgusting and disturbing when it comes to visuals, and even though Voice does have its share of “gore”, it was very, for lack of a better word, choreographed. It was all very pretty, aesthetically pleasing despite everything. It’s very different from the other movies that we had watched in class, which are all Western movies. Also, in this movie, horror didn’t really seem to be the objective, but rather a mystery. The audience discovers clues at the same time as Young-eon, and they are reminded that Voice is a horror movie (beyond the ghosts involved) in the end, when it becomes apparent that Young-eon had succeeded in “living” again.

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This is the Voice

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I have never been a fan of Asian horror films for I think, some of the plot are unbelievable and some aesthetics of the ghosts or monsters are obviously unrealistic. In the voice, it shows that Young-eon, a ghost in the school recalls her past and she tried to communicate with people who are alive. At first, it was a mystery to know the reason behind Young-eon’s death. Honestly, I was kind of bored with the film because the story is quite uninteresting. I felt asleep a several of times while watching it. For me, this film shouldn’t be considered a horror film (yes there are ghosts) but it was more on the drama or solving mysteries kind of genre.

 

At the opening scene of the Voice, a student who is a top singer at their school, Young-eon was murdered through a music sheet cutting her throat. I was amazed how a music sheet was able to kill a person by just a paper cut. On the next day, Young-eon’s ghost was wandering and only her best friend, Seon-min could hear her voice. Seon-min helped Young-eon in finding out what happened to her and who killed her. There was this strange girl in school, Cho-ah, who can also hear the voices of ghosts. Cho-ah tells Seon-min that ghosts only remember what they wanted to so some of the things that Young-eon told her might not be true.  Cho-ah also helped them and suspected that there might be another ghost that can be the reason behind the death of Young-eon. The body of Young-eon was later found in an elevator and there it was said that she was just unconscious and a student accidentally killed her by dropping down a cart that hit her neck. Flashbacks happened to Young-eon about her mother getting a suicide and her music teacher was asked by Young-eon to sing leading to suicide. In the flashbacks, because of Young-eon, her mother went to suicide. It was evident in the flashbacks that Young-eon had multiple personality disorder. It turned out that Young-eon had been hearing voices of her teacher and the ghost. Young-eon wanted to kill her teacher because she knew that the ghost was in love with her so when she dies, the ghost will therefore go away. We found out that the ghost was the one who killed Young-eon at the start. When Seon-Min knew this, she told Young-eon to move on but Young-eon only wants to be alive again. She then kills Cho-ah and took over the body of Seon-Min. At the end, we cn see that Cho-ah was shouting but voiceless.

 

The movie tried to show its audience the psychology behind a woman’s thinking. It is not only through the relationships but also the way the woman acts. Young-eon, since she died, she can’t know her true identity and only thing that she remembers is what she wants. That is the reason why some of the information she said to Seon-min are incorrect. It can also be concluded that because of her psychological disorder which affected the manipulation of the truth.

 

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Before taking this class, I always privately wondered about horror movie’s fascination with women. I suppose we could be seen as an easy source of mystery for men (and, let’s face it, pretty much all of the filmmakers prior to the 21st century were men) but that sort of statement underestimates the creative prowess of a lot of people while only really scratching the surface of the matter. Women in horror seemed to take on roles that men couldn’t be seen starring in—either as a matter of pride, or because stereotypes made it so that they couldn’t be seen a certain way—which pretty much amounted to: the victim, the exploited party, the lost and confused, the seductive monster.

Interestingly enough, Voice didn’t have much to say about men. They were absolutely removed from the context of Voice, which actually didn’t take away from the story despite only really having female characters cast in traditionally female roles. Instead this somehow made everything less creepy and more… sad? To me, it seemed more like a suspenseful/supernatural whodunit than a proper horror movie because despite the paranormal elements, the murders, and the general nature of the story, there was something familiar and predictable about it. But, then, Asian horrors always feel a bit different to me. Possibly I’m just suffering from being overexposed to Western movies and underexposed to (good) Eastern/Asian horror but anyway…

Lacking the male element, Voice exists in a vacuum in which the female gaze is allowed to exist without anyone chastising her for it, though curiously enough sight is one of the senses least important to the whole thing. Maybe it’s this shift in focus that allows for some of the more unconventional moments in the film. Of course, there is a focus placed on the importance of one’s voice and of making oneself heard, which is tied into the emotional bonds one has to other people in the world. The voice here seemed to speak of an ability to come back to life. Or, at least, as a way to cling to the world of the living. The issue then is the person (or ghost) becoming the abject, the thing which lives on the other side of “the border”, which is in itself a frightening thought for anyone.

When speaking of abjection and the abject, I can’t avoid speaking of homosexual relationships, especially as it appears in Voice. Homosexuality doesn’t seem to be much of an issue here past its role in the bullying that lead to Hyo-jung’s suicide, but that was presented as a matter of many different factors closing in on the girl. In fact, the greatest tension in the movie seems to come from the fact that Hyo-jung, even as a ghost, could not let go of the symbolic mother figure (the music teacher) and was angered by losing this as it meant that she would lose her voice. As Choh-Ah says: the dead only remember what they want to remember. Their memories, selves, and identities are tied into the fact that someone still remembers or loves them. Hyo-jung’s identity was heavily threatened by the maternal figure symbolically abandoning her.

I don’t have much else to say about Voice, except that I hope I understood it right. It was a bit of a confusing movie and I’m still re-thinking some of the details until now.

Voice

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Asian horror is not unlike most horror in that we encounter the horrible out of a cosmic kind of justice. The premise of Voice is that even as departed spirits we are able to produce a presence, an affect on the people that remember us. The manifestation of which is the voice of Young-Eon on Sun-min.

Asian horror often does play the card of cosmic justice where the so-called victim in the western hemisphere takes on the roles of either the arbiter, the criminal in need of punishment, or even the ghostly witness of the cosmic wrong-doing. But the movie Voice is different in that it not only plays all those character but goes beyond it. It is a movie about wanting to live above all things, despite the impediment death brings. It is about keeping, having and maintaining not only a presence in the world but also having to power to affect changes to the world as proof of not only our existence but of that we live.

The movie puts the idea of a ghost somewhat on the pedestal by making it out to be a pitiable existence. A thing that is able to experience a world but not have the power to change it. As such the ghost is not an object of the horror. The ghost later becomes a horror when it takes on the form of the phantom force setting our world into motion. But beyond that, the ghost as a horror frightens us because it represents exactly that which is out of place in the sensory aspect of our world. But the dynamic of the ghost and the horror it facilitates is different in that unlike physical horrors that are able to penetrate our realities and simply frighten us by being there, the ghost is an experience mitigated by our being receptive to it and in a sense our own fault for being open to it.

The movie presents the ghost as a being of malcontent. The ghost in that regard represents the grappling with of humanity over our own mortality of all things and the Ghost is the hidden projection of wanting to continue even over death. The ghost represents the fear that the lifetimes we live just might be insufficient in time in order to fulfill our desired existence. The ghost then becomes a being characterized by malcontent and ambition over life.

But the movie makes one crucial distinction about the ghosts in Voice; the ghost’s existence and its pre-existence, the point when it was human and alive, are seemingly different phases of its life. It’s almost as if the Ghost is the only phase of existence capable of reflection upon its existence as a ghost and its previous existence. The ghost is able to look back farther in life and as such represents the culmination of a specific person’s being even his mistakes. This almost characterizes our life as a phase of existence devoid of the ability to look back. The ghost is then a representation of regrets and a reminder of things yet done.

The movie plays out a difficult dynamic between the ghost and those that experience it because the identity of the actual victim in the narrative is passed around because of the shadows of doubt. The Asian horror genre as a subset of Horror presents reality as one being with the spiritual at all times, where the horrible lives and resides right underneath our noses.

Inbetween

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I have a love-hate relationship with Asian (Korean and Japanese) horror films. I love them because they scare me so much, and I hate them for the same reason as well. At the beginning of the course, I told myself I expect to stop diminishing the value of a horror film to its imagery alone. Although I have worked on that quite a bit, I still think that horrifying images make my horror experience complete. With this in mind, I was 99% sure that Voice will have some mind-boggling character that will haunt me for at least a week. But it turned out to be more of a haunting voice than a haunting image. Of course, the Asian look always has that creepy vibe even if it’s just a normal character, but I didn’t get the Ju-on type of imagery. The setting was classic Asian film, as it was shot in a high school campus with the elevator and dark corridors.

Although I was disappointed in that sense, I thought it was not that bad. After putting myself in Cho-ah’s shoes, I’d think it would be scarier to hear something and not know where it’s coming from than to see a horrifying face and body. What I typically like about the movie is that the ghost with the unfinished business is not the bad one at the beginning. In most horror movies, it’s always in the perspective of the human being that we see the presence of the ghost. The only movie I can think of right now that explores this perspective is Just Like Heaven, which is not at all a horror movie. It actually surprised me when the original voice they hear is not merely attracting a victim, but actually has a connection with Young-eon. Although it was a bit slow, the inception of voices was a new concept for me. I also liked the part where they say that the soul can only remember what it wants to remember. There’s a concept in Aquinas’ moral theory called consequent ignorance, where one tends to not know something just because they do not want to know. This “refrains” them from being responsible for the actions that they did that may have harmed the people around them. In the movie, Young-eon did a lot of things that have hurt the people around her. She seemed like an innocent soul at the beginning, but the story unravels a different side of her. When she realizes everything that she has done, she turns into someone she had locked in her subconscious.

The film was very emotional as it tackles relationships, just like most Asian horror films do. The story was a bit of confusing at the beginning, thus lessening the predictability which is actually pretty good. What I particulary liked about the movie is that it bravely added concepts that are not conventionally used, like the lesbian-student affair and cancer patient suicide, to give the film more impact. I would still consider Voice to be a horror film because it revolved around the experience of in-between life and death and how terrifying it is to be stuck in something you can’t completely accept (Young-eon) and to help someone out of distress without even knowing what really is true (Cho-ah.)

Voice

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To be honest, I have a personal bias for Asian horror movies. I tend to enjoy their concepts and cinematography much more than Hollywood horror movies. In addition, I tend to prefer the Asian versions of films over their American remakes, such as The Grudge or The Ring. Even outside the horror genre, I appreciate the Asian-made movies more than their American counterparts, such as the romantic movie My Sassy Girl. I think that I have this personal bias firstly because I can relate to Asian culture more than American culture and secondly because I become much more terrified and even traumatized by the characters and scenes in Asian horror movies.
Even though the statement above seems quite masochistic, it only means that I like horror movies simply because they are terrifying, so the scarier the movie the better. Voice, as mentioned in class before, is part of a series of Korean horror movies with similar plots and settings. I have watched another movie that is also part of the series, specifically, Wishing Stairs. The two movies were quite similar in the sense that both were about a pair of female high school best friends who end up competing with or for each other. Despite the fact that the plot was not original and the horror scenes were quite predictable, Voice was still an enjoyable horror movie.
I liked it first and foremost for its typicality. Because the entire movie was almost predictable, I was able to detect most of the “horror” or “surprise” moments. Because of this, it built up the suspense and I ended up being scared because I opened myself to the scenes. What I am trying to say is that its predictability contributed to its success as a horror movie. This thought probably makes more sense when taken in the context of classical horror movies, such that their plots are almost identical. In my opinion, about 50% or more of horror movies revolve around characters going into a situation in which they know nothing about and then there are latent supernatural events wherein the characters become collateral damage. However, I think that most horror movies have similar plots precisely because those kinds of stories are successful in bringing horror to their audience.
Second, I enjoyed Voice because of despite it not being original, it still managed to have unique plot twists or original character concepts. For example, I liked the fact that it dared to portray the loving but somewhat possessive and even slightly homosexual relationship that is seen in all-girl high schools. Furthermore, it was fascinating to find out that the ghost was actually an student who was also significantly connected and even obsessed with the music teacher. These are the kinds of situations that make Asian films unique and, for me, successful horror movies.

Haunted Voices

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“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” (William Shakespeare)

This film is as estrogen-filled as they get. Voice revolves mainly around female characters who are later revealed to have a number of internal conflicts bothering them to the point that it tears them apart internally; they implode. Implosion is mostly the case for a stereotypical ‘woman’, who is expected to carry her problems with grace. Things go ugly pretty slow, but when it gets to the ugly, it’s as bad as it gets. There are several things that can be said about Barbara Creed’s ‘monstrous feminine’ and Linda William’s take on the power of feminine desire.

Asian horror films are very well known for their effectiveness when it comes to scaring the socks off of people. I have also noticed that for the most part, the monsters in the film are often children or women, and although they seem smaller in structure than most movie monsters, they pack a punch. Maybe there is something that triggers within a viewer once presented with a monstrous threat that does not look like it can do much. I think it can be connected the monstrous feminine that Creed talks about. It disturbs us more psychologically because we are not used to women or girls being the ones that hold the power in the films and in a sense, viewers are castrated while the movie monsters are invincible in their femininity. The very action of making the monster less physically imposing (size-wize, because often times the monsters look really creepy) Voice is exactly that. The narrator is extremely unreliable, and the threats in the film are not so great in proportion. There is less gore and less violence in this movie than most of the ones that we’ve watched but it remains effective because although the scares aren’t exactly so imposing, it turns stereotypes around and so we are put in a state of abjection; in a world where women are portrayed as weaker, Voice shows that this weakness is only at the shallow point of the character’s being and that women who are scorned have a more twisted way of dealing things. They go behind your back and play with your psyche whereas with male monsters, it is direct to the point, bloody and often linear.