The Ghost, also known in English speaking parts as Dead Friend (its Korean title is Ryeong) isn’t just unimaginative in title: it’s an arrestingly shameless combination of Ring and Dark Water, with a cheesy M. Night Shyamalan ending tacked on for good measure. The “references” to Ring in particular are as unsubtle as the ones in Scary Movie except it seems to be played straight. You almost have to admire that.
You also have to admire that in spite of the lack of originality it’s actually pretty good. There is comfort in the familiar, and all the staples of the contemporary Asian horror scene are here: cute girlies with suggestive touchy-feely friendships, supernatural revenge schemes and those drippy, ineffectual love interests.
What pushes The Ghost into better-than-average territory is its execution. It’s beautifully structured, lovely to look at (deep greens jump right off the screen) and has one of the most densely atmospheric sound mixes I’ve ever heard. The avowedly gore-free horror is helped immeasurably by the sound, in fact I’d almost say that if you don’t have digital surround at home then you needn’t bother watching it. Sudden thunderous sound effects are often an annoyingly cheap way of making an audience jump, and this movie indulges in plenty of that, but in this case I found it forgivable, so damn well was it done.
The ending is one of those ones with big revelations and swirly music together with flashbacks to seemingly innocuous moments now revealed to have been terribly meaningful. It’s all apparently intended to make us slap ourselves on the forehead with wonder, but I doubt the movie would have been any worse without it, meaning it’s just riding in late on the coat-tails of the Shyamalan craze. There are worse ways to spend 100 minutes, but better ways too.