July 2, 2022

The Devil's Stairway: Nursed to Death

Did you think it was bad when Shelley Winters drowned in A Place in the Sun? Well, that's nothing compared to what's in store for the unwanted girlfriend in The Devil's Stairway. Lee Min-hui's hospital thriller sets up pretty quickly that the romance between an enterprising doctor (Kim Jin-kyu) and a clingy nurse (Moon Jeong-suk) is going to go sour before the spit on their lips has time to dry. And part of the fun is having Lee tease us with the possible murders that don't play out: a strangling, an overdose, another fall down that deadly staircase, an intentionally botched abortion, a grisly end utilizing various pieces of shiny medical equipment... The options are endless!

We know our hero is also our villain. But are you truly a bad guy if you're haunted by your actions? Oh, of course you are. You're just a bad guy with a conscience. Which is marginally better than a bad guy without one. How do you know he's got second thoughts? The Devil's Staircase has a deliciously insistent soundtrack with heightened foley sounds, well-placed vibraphones, and cacophonous orchestral works that drop out just in time to underscore the madness. Insanity sounds best without background music (and when shot in expert black and white).