Well Go Usa // 2009 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // November 5th, 2010
Let's get this out of the way. (clears his throat)
(sung to The Kinks' "Lola") Yoga! Y-O-G-A yoga! Yo yo yo yo yoga! (air guitar)
And now, on with the countdown.
How do you make a horror movie about yoga? Thats like making a horror movie about coin collecting: it doesn't have the basic elements that add up to terror. Okay, so maybe your protagonist gets stuck in an awkward position, or a yoga mat comes to life and wraps her up like burrito. But, for the most part, it just doesn't seem possible, does it?
Try this on for size. Hyo Jung (Yoo Jin) is a host for the South Korean version of the Home Shopping Network. She's pretty and perky, but not as pretty and perky as her new co-host. She finds herself being pushed out by the new girl and comes the realization that she needs to look younger and hotter to make her way in the world. An old acquaintance tells her about a exclusive Yoga school that only takes a few students. If Hyo Jung is able to complete the course, she will achieve the ultimate in beauty, the Kundalini. Of course it takes dedication, hard work, and adherence to the strict rules of the class.
What are these rules? Well, you have to fast for all seven days of the course. You can not contact the outside world. You can not look into any mirrors, and you can not touch water for an hour after the class ends. Na-ni (Su-Yeon Cha) is the instructor, but the real power behind the school is the famed actress Khan Mi-hee (Hye-sang lee), a woman of infamous beauty, who has all but disappeared from the public eye. As the course progress, the five women participating find themselves in disturbing peril, as one by one they break the rules and pay.
The scares in Yoga don't come from practice itself, and thats a good thing, because frankly it would end up being pretty silly. This isn'a comedy horror, but a movie that uses strong atmosphere and building dread to create some effective jump scares and good chills. The horror is more of the haunted house variety.
The yoga studio is a dark and forbidding place with long empty passages, echoing rooms, slimy shower stalls, and corroded brick. Director Jae-yeon Yun does a good job using the sets to create some real creepy sequences, as the girls walk into darkness, or look into what appears to be a mirror. Of course, as they break rules, they are tormented and eventually killed, but its all done with some bizarre twists (and a bit of irony on the side). Visually, the movie has a lot of style, carrying it forward with beautiful compositions and superb lighting.
But there are a couple problems. Because it's going for dread instead of visceral scares, it attempts to build upon its unsettling mood. This often requires the actresses to move very very slowly. This compounds into creating long scenes of slow moving people in dark hallways. It works, but the 98 minute run time feels a little longer for it.
Also, most of these gals are self centered and cruel, not really the kind of people you end up rooting for. Even Hyo Jung, who is the nicest of the bunch, is here because she's vain. It's hard to feel frightened for a bunch of women who backstab each other at the first possible chance, and do their best to get the others to break the rules. But these are minor issues. If you are in the mood for a nice twist on a haunted house style creepfest, Yoga will fit the bill.
The DVD is a strange beast, the transfer appearing to be a letterboxed, full frame non-anamorphic widescreen. The picture looks great, if a little small and pinched. The subtitles are clear, but move a bit too quickly in places. The Dolby 5.1 Surround was very effective balancing the echoing voices, unnerving score, and screams of terror. The DVD case says there's a behind the scenes featurette, but my copy only has the theatrical trailer.
I give it the not guilty tiger pose.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go Usa
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Korean)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Korean)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated