In an all-girls Catholic high school, three best friends struggling with the anxieties in their young lives swear to a suicide pact, resolving to end their suffering together. Yet after their pledge, Soy (Son Eun-seo (손은서), Yoo-jin (Oh Yeon-seo (오연서) and Eun-yeong (Song Min-jeong (송민정) remain alive while a fourth girl, highly academic student Eun-joo (Jang Kyeong-ah (장경아) is found dead having jumped from the school roof. Rumours quickly begin to circulate as to the circumstances surrounding Eun-joo’s suicide, with suspicions regarding Soy’s involvement growing ever more intense. As Eun-joo’s younger sister Jeong-eun (Yoo Shin-ae (유신애) investigates, she appears as if possessed, striving for answers until the shocking truth is finally revealed.
The fifth entry in the highly successful Whispering Corridors horror series, A Blood Pledge – AKA Suicide Pact – is certainly the most poorly conceived. Aside from some occasionally interesting moments regarding female high school relationships, the weak narrative, feeble directing and frankly horrible editing and special effects combine to produce an especially fruitless K-horror that lacks any scares.
Writer/director Lee Jong-yong attempts to craft a A Blood Pledge as a gothic horror mystery of sorts, employing religious iconography and non-linear timeline to generate the required chills. Unfortunately for the filmmaker, none of it works. Visually, A Blood Pledge is particularly lacking both aesthetically and in finesse as suspense is fleetingly generated, while the constant flashbacks add more confusion than tension due to their seemingly random insertion and absence of visual cues differentiating time periods. Thematically the narrative touches upon some key issues of Korean teenage life – volatile relationships, importance of grades in school hierarchy, the class divide – yet as they are typically only briefly alluded and with character development curiously absent, it’s tough to invest in Soy’s journey or find it remotely compelling.
A Blood Pledge could make up for its shortcomings with some effective horror sequences, yet in this regard the film also fails. While the film aims for generic scares, there is little or no attempt to build the pre-requisite suspense that leads to them. When the vengeful spirit does indeed appear to exact revenge, the scenes are cringeworthy in their awfulness. Featuring laughable special effects or more generally a bloodied ghost in dark lighting, the horror sequences don’t just fail to induce chills but serve to draw the audience from the story. A scene involving an exploding head followed by a rapidly reversing car is the most notable offence, positively screaming budget constraints as well as poor conception.
The film also suffers from undeveloped narrative strands and illogical motivations. A subplot involving bad boy Gi-ho and his rich mother is never pursued despite its open-ended nature, while Eun-yeong’s relationship with her abusive father isn’t explored, amongst others. Notably, a pregnant student doesn’t want to proceed with an abortion yet would rather commit suicide instead. Fallacies such as these halt any potential depth that could have been ascribed to the narrative, resulting in a particularly underwhelming fifth entry into an otherwise successful horror franchise.
A Blood Pledge is the fifth entry in the Whispering Corridors horror series by writer/director Lee Jong-yong, and is easily the weakest in the franchise. While aspects of female high school relationships are alluded to, the poor script, bland directing and cringeworthy scenes of horror alongside a confusing timeline structure make A Blood Pledge one for K-horror aficionados only.