By Kim Tae-jong
As the nation's only horror film series, "Yogo Kwedam", which literally translates into "High School Ghost Story", has brought a chill to the summer seasons for teens and adults alike.
The series began with "Whispering Corridors" in 1998, which sparked the rush of local teen horror films, and followed it up with two other commercially successful scream fests.
Equan Choe (Choi Ik-hwan
) is the director for the fourth installment of the series, "Voice Letter" (Yogo Kwedam: Moksori), due out Friday. He admits the most difficult part was how to make his work different from previous movies without losing basic elements of the original.
"Of course, I found it really hard to make a film for the series as I had to be able to put my own characteristics and my own style within the limitations of the traditions of the original", Choe told The Korea Times on Monday. "So this film also revolves around students at a girl's high school in the genre of a horror movie, but I focused more on a narrative and used different experimental methods in this film".
The original film was a sensational hit as it first dealt with sensitive issues such as problems at school and in educational systems in the genre of a horror film, but "Voice Letter" puts more emphasis on individual students and their relationships at school, added Choe, who also worked for the first film as an assistant director.
The main difference is that the story is delivered from the viewpoint of a ghost and its primary fear and conflict comes from the absence of a "voice" for the ghost", Choe explained.
In the movie, Young-eon, a student, is killed by a mysterious being while practicing singing in a music room without knowing the reason. But she can communicate with her best friend, Sun-min, who at first is terrified by the fact that she can hear the voice of her late friend, but then helps her find the reasons for her mysterious death.
"I don't particularly like horror films. Actually, I burst into laughter when I see horror films with no interesting stories in them, simply relying on splendid technical conventions. That's why I believe that a narrative is so important in movies", the director said, who also wrote the story of the film.
Choe majored in linguistics at university and started working in the film industry in the early 1990s after studying at the San Francisco Art Institute. He made several independent and experimental films before he started working on commercial films.
"And what's good about the series is that they were made with small amounts of money, so I don't need to worry too much about my film's commercial success. So I was able to try many experimental things", Choe said jokingly.
Due to the limitations of the production budgets, the series has starred young new faces each year, so they have become a good opportunity for many aspiring actresses to enter show business.
In "Voice Letter", except Kim Seo-hyung
, who starred in the film, "The Sweet Sex and Love" in 2002, the three other main actresses _ Seo Ji-hye
, Kim Ok-bin
and Cha Ye-ryun
_ are new faces to the screen.
"I really liked working with them. They were inexperienced actresses, of course, but they were passionate and tried to do their best. So all I asked them was to be themselves and not to try to be somebody else when they were performing", the director said.
Choe will make a comedy for his next film, participating in a project by CJ Entertainment along with seven other renowned young directors using digital media. The directors include Park Chan-wook
("Old Boy"), Yoo Ha
("Once Upon a Time in Highschool (Maljukgori Chanhoksa)") and Heo Jin-ho
"There are still some problems in digital media when you make a film. But they are very attractive tools and I want to maximize the potential and try many experimental things in the film project", Choe said.