Seen in Jeonju

Yoga Academy (2009)

1st April 2010

yoga academyI finally sat down and watched Yoga Academy today.  Not on DVD… I certainly won’t buy it until the price comes down.  I am all for owning as many dvds of Korean films as I can..but even I have standards.  The dvd right now is somewhere around 20,000+ KRW  and I thought that would be too much to spend on this movie. I had felt that 7,000 was too much to see it when this horror film hit theaters in August too.  I have HanaTV and movies usually are available there just a couple of months after their theatrical releases–so why not wait? When it came to HanaTV, the on-demand price was 5,000. I decided to skip it. Then it went down to half of that price. I still didn’t bite. Then last weekend, I saw that it was down to 500KRW on demand–that is less than  $0.50 USD. I felt the price was right and I would give it a chance.

I also thought that maybe I was being a little unfair to the movie. True, reviews were horrible but I had already made my decision about that just from reading the plot synopsis while the movie was still in production. A group of women practicing yoga in a creepy, haunted building? It really sounded like the writer was completely out of ideas and I really wonder how the film was pitched to producers and investors.  And in the first ten or fifteen minutes of the film I found myself thinking, “Hey! This is no where near as bad as I thought.”  But then…well, things start going down hill pretty fast.

Being a generally positive person, I’ll start with the two things I liked about this movie. First, I liked the set up of why Hyo-jeong, the main character in the story, decides to join a creepy haunted yoga class in the first place. Hyo-jeong works as a hostess on a home-shopping program. However, while nowhere near middle-aged, she is still not as young as she used to be. And it turns out that she has reason to worry as her new co-hostess is much younger, gaining in popularity and getting some work that would normally have gone to Hyo-jeong. This short sequence–the first ten to fifteen minutes of the film–have a Bette Davis All About Eve feel to it and, if this had been the focus of the film, it might have been more enjoyable.

The second part I liked comes early on in Hyo-jeong yoga training. It is the first time the students at the academy practice together and the never-smiling instructor puts them through their paces in an odd chamber lit by candles and encircled by a moat of  shallow dark water. As the students practice their moves in unison, eyes closed and concentrating on relaxing, the instructor mimics their motions in a more grandious way but her actions cause things to happen such as the candles to blow out in unison or the water to ripple menacingly. I thought to myself, “It’s a form of witchcraft! I don’t remember having seen anything quite like it before in a Korean horror movie!” and I started for some reason thinking about Suspiria, an Italian horror movie I had seen where a coven of witches run a ballet school (It’s much better than I just made it sound).

But when the movie you’re watching has you thinking about other, better movies, it should be a sign to you that there is a problem. While I liked those two things listed above, I disliked everything else. The first major problem comes when we are introduced to our class of victims. These women have no character whatsoever except for some broadly painted, cliche. There is the vain one, the bitchy one, the comic quirky one, and the other one–she had even less personality than the others, I kept forgetting who she was–and while I’m writing this I can’t remember what finally happened to her…  The comic quirky woman, played by Jo Eun-ji, was especially annoying. She is comic, you see, because she used to be fat. As a fat person, even a former fat person, she naturally thinks only of food. Actress Jo seems to follow the acting style of Jo An in Whispering Corridors 3: Wishing Stairs as she scurries around with an odd birdlike shuffle and wide-eyed insanity as events start getting out of hand. Add to insatiable craving for food a pathological attachment to a pet guinea pig that she carries everywhere with her and you can predict what will eventually happen.  In fact, you can predict almost everything in this film except for the end.

Why couldn’t I predict the end? I don’t even know what happened, that’s why! If anyone can come up with an explanation from Hyo-jeong’s discovery in the basement to the final subway scene, I would love to hear it.  The film  is a complete mess.

If you feel you must watch this film, do something else like homework or ironing at the same time. That way, you won’t waste 98 minutes like I did.  I want my 50 cents back….

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