A Blood Pledge -- Film Review

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BUCHEON, South Korea -- Four schoolgirls make a pact to die together but when their titular "Blood Pledge" goes horribly wrong, mistrust, guilt and paranoia cause a deadly rift in their relationships. Even with a knotty plot and overused premise, having a cast of pretty girls in uniforms will attract some audiences especially among teenagers.

The South Korean film has been pre-sold to a distributor for Southeast Asia territories. Talks of a remake have been reported.

Although Lee Jong Yong's personal signature as a director is faint, he does capture the fragile and elusive nature of teenage female friendships, while infusing enough suspense to save the film from total torpor. However, as far as horror films go, the scares never go beyond the obligatory long hair and blood stained face, making this the most conventional of the Yeogogodam series of horror films set in girls' high schools, which include "Whispering Corridors" and "Memento Mori."

In the prelude, teenage girls Soy (Son Eun Seo), Eugene and Eun-young are about to seal a suicide pact in the school chapel when they are interrupted by banging on the door. The film proper then opens with Jung-un witnessing her sister Un-joo plunge to her own death from the school rooftop. Rumors circulate about Soy's presence at Un-joo's death.

It transpires that ever since Soy joined Eugene's and Eun-young's clique, she has been giving Un-joo the cold shoulder, even though Soy and Un-joo used to be bosom friends. All three girls who made the original blood pledge think they are haunted by Un-joo's ghost, while the grieving Jung-un acts as if possessed.

The film's greatest shortcoming is the ordering of time sequence. Flashbacks are given no narrative or visual indicators (like different costumes, sets or image texture) to differentiate them from the present. The key scare scenes are as muddled as the lighting is murky.

On several occasions, Un-joo's ghost causes gruesome deaths, but in the following scenes the victims are alive and well. It is never indicated whether the deaths were hallucinations, dream sequences or premonitions -- or whether the time sequence has been reversed.

Loose ends include an anonymous girl's suicide attempt, which leads to nothing, and Un-joo's attack of the mother of Soy's boyfriend, which abruptly shifts to another event and is never to be brought up again. Some of the protagonists' thought patterns require leaps of logic: A girl with an unwanted pregnancy refuses to have an abortion because it is killing a life. Her solution? To commit suicide!

The film is more successful at creating an air of mystique surrounding the protagonists' shifting loyalties and then slowly unpeeling their layers of hidden motives to reveal a twist at the end.

Venue: Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

Production company: Cine2000
Cast: Son Eun Seo, Jang Kyeong A, Oh Yeon Seo
Director-screenwriter: Lee Jong Yong
Based on the story by Jeong Ah Mi
Producer: Lee Choon Yun, Lee Sae Young
Director of photography: Kang Seung Gi
Production designer: Jeon In Han
Music: Lee Jeong Woo
Editor: Kim Sang Bum
Sales: Finecut
No rating, 88 minutes
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