The Ghost Station - FrightFest UK Premiere
Director: Yong-ki Jeong
Starring: Bo-ra Kim, Jae Hyun Kim, Shin So-yul, Oh Jin-Seok, Soo-jin Kim
Written by: Takahashi Hiroshi, Soyoung Lee
Produced by: Eun-kyoung Lee, Wataru Okada
Cinematography by: Sang-jae Seon
Original Score by: Kim Doo-hwan, Park Kwang-bok, Kim Woo-chul
A public service worker at Oksu Station witnesses a shocking incident and recruits his friend to help uncover the truth behind the station's mysterious happenings.
When it comes to ghost stories, there's nowhere that does it better than Japan or South Korea. With that being said, despite it's original and intriguing story 'The Ghost Station' just seems to lack that something special that usually elevates films from this region to the next level.
Bo-ra Kim stars as Na-young, a reporter for a large, local gossip website, who has recently been reported to the press arbitration committee after supposedly publishing an unsolicited photograph and outing a transgender model by accident. She's in a bit of trouble with her boss and has been ordered to payout a large settlement (equivalent to $50,000) or face the possibility of a lawsuit, something that her domineering boss clearly doesn't want.
Forced to find a new, compelling story that will generate ad revenue and help pay the settlement for her, Na-young begins to chase up information regarding a recent accident at Oksu Station in which a man was wiped away after climbing down from the station platform onto the rail track. Through some help from her friend U-won (Jae Hyun Kim) who works at the station and a little bit of investigative digging, Na-young discovers that there may have been another victim involved in the accident, even though the report doesn't mention anything about a second body.
After attempting to interview the train conductor (who apparently committed suicide) Na-yeong's findings eventually lead her to the original victim's grief stricken sister and through some deep conversations Na-young begins to slowly uncover that something incredibly sinister is at work here. After a chain of deaths occur all connecting back to Oksu Station, Na-young believes there may be a curse involving mysterious nail scratches that randomly appear on people's hands and necks and she and U-won are the only people who can unravel the truth.
'The Ghost Station' starts off in delightfully shocking fashion as a man gets decapitated by some sliding doors while staring at "something" on the tracks. It's a cool opening scene that's essentially ripped straight from the webcomic it's based on by Horang, but it basically just works as a cold open. We're then introduced to Na-young and her predicament and we're off and running fairly quickly. A little too quickly for me. There's obviously a bit of setup before the shit begins to hit the fan but it lacks any real tension. The film does create quite a nice, creepy atmosphere particularly during the scenes shot at the station however I do feel like this would've been more effective if these sequences had been drawn out a bit more in order to really build the suspense.
Speaking of the station, chef's kiss. Loved these scenes. Big fan of this kind of location and perfect for horror. Maybe not utilised enough though, probably just down to time when shooting. When we get into the nitty gritty of the film it begins to rely a little too much on jump scares, all of which are classically telegraphed. Some of them work and some don't but overall there's just too many of them in a short space of time. All of them revolve around the "ghosts" and the make-up effects are pretty good if a bit standard affair. There's nothing really particularly scary or original about their design.
The film does excel when it's allowed to take its time and there's some gorgeous shots in here. I'm pretty sure there's a few split diopter shots that stand out nicely too which is never a bad thing in my eyes. Really enjoyed the performances too, especially the two leads Bo-ra Kim and Jae Hyun Kim. I could feel the vulnerability in Bo-ra instantly which made me want her to succeed, particularly in contrast to her unforgiving, forceful boss lady played well by Soo-jin Kim. Her performance does sometimes just tickle the edge of being a tad over the top but she reels it in just in time which makes her even more of a legitimate villain and subsequently left me smiling at her fate by the end.
'The Ghost Station' doesn't quite live up to any of Korea's other horror masterpieces. It was a relatively entertaining film but considering it was co-written by Takahashi Hiroshi (Ringu) it did end up leaving me a little disappointed.
- Gavin Logan
'The Ghost Station' received it's UK Premiere at FrightFest '23 on August 25th