At first glance, The Silenced, aka Gyeongseonghakyoo: Sarajin Sonyeodeul looks like an odd continuation of the “haunted girl’s high school” franchise. (Whispering Corridors, Wishing Stairs, A Blood Pledge, et al.) It is, in fact, not part of these school horror films at all.
It may be set in an all girl’s school and they are all that age, but there is no ghost and the film takes place during the time of Japanese occupation of Korea, in 1938. These are not “normal” teen girls, but young ladies who all have some sort of terrible illness.
The school is set out in the middle of nowhere and the teen girls are dropped off to this isolated sanitarium run by a very strict headmistress. All the boarders take special medication and exercise.
Each “student” is given a new name, Ju-ran, for instance, is called Shizuko; a Japanese name. The girl notices that her fellow students are disappearing and her health is improving to an alarming degree. The place is revealed to be much more than a health inducing facility for girls.
Written and directed by Hae-young Lee and starring Bo-yeong Park, So-dam Park and Ji-won Uhm the film follows Ju-ran as she discovers where the missing girls are. She also learns the secret of the school.
As The Silenced progresses we learn that “Shizuko” was the name of another girl who disappeared before Ju-ran arrived.
There are some familiar schoolgirl themes in this film. A “class” bully, teacher’s who strike their pupils and a pushy headmaster. At first the school seems to have been cursed but the truth is much stranger than any ghost or “damned” creature haunting the school.
The sets and the costumes all look spot on for the time period. Atmospheric and captivating, the film proves that South Korea can do these types of genres almost effortlessly.
The film shifts direction partway through and blends the mystery with the elements of horror perfectly. At 99 minutes long, the pace never drags and keeps the viewers interest until the last frame of the film.
The Silenced is a 4.5 star film. It entertains and ticks all the right boxes. There is mystery, an element of horror and some action. The Japanese are portrayed as the baddies in this film, as they were the occupying force in those days.
Streaming on Netflix at the moment, this is well worth a look for fans of South Korean cinema. Those who do not like subtitles in their films should give this one a miss. Have a look at the trailer below and see if this is up your alley.