Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: White: Melody of Death

Title: Hwaiteu: Jeojooui Mellodi (화이트: 저주의 멜로디)
Alternate title: White: Melody of Death, White: The Melody of the Curse
Director: Kim Gok, Kim Sun
Cast: Ham Eun-Jung, Hwang Woo Seul Hye, Jin Se-Yeon, Choi Ah-Ra, May Doni Kim
Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 106 minutes
Country: South Korea
Language: Korean
Synopsis: Girl group Pink Dolls are largely unknown, overshadowed by other, more popular idols. However, after covering the mysterious song "White" for their second album, they become overnight sensations -- but this brand of fame comes with a sinister price.

Masquerading as a horror movie, Hwaiteu: Jeojooui Mellodi or White: The Melody of the Curse, if you prefer the English title, is actually a thinly veiled look at the troubles of the Korean music industry. Pink Dolls is a failing kpop girl group. Their loss to a more popular and mainstream girl group on a television show seems to be the final blow for the girls. Even a new studio and more practice can't ease the tension between them. Each has their own issues, but the eldest is consistently bullied by the younger three members. It's even more interesting considering that, the very next year, the movie's star Eun-Jung was involved in a bullying scandal with her group T-ara. You can read Miko's thoughts on the problems with T-ara here.

Eun-Ju finds a bunch of video tapes in their new studio. Out of these, she's drawn to one with English writing on it. Upon playing the tape, she realizes that it's an old, unreleased music video. The group's manager decides that she'll allow them to use the song even though no one knows who it belonged to. It must be okay to steal other people's music, right? Copyright issues are shoved aside and the girls start practicing the song. Of course, their next performance turns them into the hottest thing since sliced bread. One week a flop, the next a hit group...the girls are sure to get swelled egos.

That's when the backstabbing and fighting really begins. The girls compete for who will be the lead of the group and get to wear a white wig and costume. This is where all the supernatural things pick up. Among those supernatural things, you have the girls picking at each other's fault. One of them is insecure about singing high notes and constantly resorts to taking medication. Another is obsessed with plastic surgery. The third girl is a bad singer, but a good dancer. Then there's Eun-Ju who happens to be good at everything. There's always one in the group like her, kind and caring, even though she's badly bullied. Rather than suspect that the girls are sabotaging each other, Eun-Ju decides that the song has to be the problem!

Management doesn't care that the girls are being injured. Instead, they simply move onto the next available body. This rings so true with the state of Kpop music. With the dozens of girl groups, most have four or more members. When one gets run down, the next is merely moved up a step. These girls are all interchangeable. Slap some makeup and the right costuming on and no one will really know the difference. This even extends to vocals. There are even girls hired to do vocal doubling for those who can't quite hit all the right notes.

The fans are just as bad. In the film, there are at least two instances of crazed fans who chase down their idols. It doesn't matter if the artists get injured in this quest to see them, to snap a picture and touch them. I'm
certain that there are fans like this in real life whether in the Kpop industry or the rest of the music world. The netizens already show signs of the lengths they'd go to in order to be close to their idols. What would stop them from chasing down one with a cellphone camera?

While the horror elements have all been seen before and done better in series like Ringu, White has another thing going for it. The underlying story of all the girls and how bullying has affected them is much more
compelling. This could have been a convincing drama if it had been stripped of the horror elements to focus on the girls and how their lives changed. Pay attention to the backstory of the ghost to see what I mean by this. Instead, this is all covered up with the supernatural nullifying it's impact. Sadly, I doubt we'll ever see a drama about the things that go on behind the scenes in the Kpop world. We'll end up seeing these things in the news and tabloids. It'll all be highly debated by the fans and haters alike.

Rating: 2.5/5

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