This is an interesting mixture of cultures. The film style is very Western while the subject matter is very Korean. Education, indeed the whole educational system and ways of thinking about it, are completely different between these two cultures. So while this film delivers on the gore and shock of a Western style slasher, its story of a teacher and the effect she had on her students is how a few moments of teacher misconduct can ruin a child’s life…ARE TOTALLY KOREAN!
In Western culture when a teacher says something horrible to a student, the student usually tells the parents and then there’s probably going to be a lawsuit or at the very least an attempt to get the teacher fired. In Asian culture, which is often based on the teachings of Confucius who teaches respect for teachers, imbuing them with both awesome power and awesome responsibility, traditionally, teachers can do no wrong and students know this. Just from a personal example, I had a student tell me that one time his P.E. teacher got so mad at him that he threw him against the a wall breaking his arm. After his parents picked him up from the hospital, they drove him immediately back to the school and made him apologize to the teacher for making him so angry. Another student told me he had a high school teacher that would come into class EVERY Monday and choose five boys at random, line them up, and beat them with a stick across their little backsides. When I asked him why the teacher did this, he said, “Think about it. If he will beat us for no reason, what do you think he would do if we did not behave in his class?” Are you beginning to see the cultural difference here?
This brings me to our literary term for this film and that’s Demesure…excessive actions and uncontrollable passions and THAT is what’s going on in this little horror flick. It’s also an interesting use of narrative Point of View and a test of the reliability of the narrator. The plot is essentially about a group of former students coming back to a reunion with the teacher that supposedly traumatized them all when they were young. One’s narrative even has hints of sexual abuse. We watch and see horrific punishments for these former students and it’s confusing. If the teacher is the bad guy…why are the students getting knocked off in some gruesome ways? Well, that’s really the question and the whole story. In typical Korean style the whole thing changes based on a few plot twists at the end and believe me there’s gender confusion and deformed children all thrown in the mix. Just too much “excessive action” and waaaay too much “uncontrolled passions.”