January 28, 2012

Yoga Hakwon: Horror Stretches in an Expected Direction

I've always found it infuriating when people carp, "I love yoga except for the spiritual part. I wish they'd get rid of that chanting." But maybe I just didn't understand. Maybe it wasn't the God stuff that was bothering people. Maybe it was yoga's Satanic undercurrents. Yoga Hakwon has now set me straight. A horror movie about a secret yoga practice that promises one lucky student per class the gift of "ultimate beauty," the movie cannily targets the superficial people who take yoga for vanity's sake, not for their soul's salvation. You want a soulless version of yoga? You got it, bitch!

To be the prettiest graduate in this particular week-long intensive, however, is going to take serious work. The five women enrolled at Mi-hee's seclusive, exclusive studio -- as well as their enimgatic, dictatorial instructor Na-ni (Cha Su-yeon) -- are all really pretty and really limber. Plus they're going to be asked to make some major sacrifices right off, like relinquishing their cell phones, refraining from snack foods, and not looking in the mirror every other second for seven days. They must also resist the impulse to take a hot shower within an hour after their last class. Sound easy? Well, it's not. We're talking impulse control, habit breaking, and downward facing dog.

Inevitably, everyone will succumb to temptation in one form or another. Binging will earn the twitchy one (Jo Eun-ji) boils all over her body; a poorly timed shower will drive the arrogant one (Kim Hye-na) to deepthroat a snake. The youngest two (Hwang Seung-eon and Park Han-byeol) are dragged offscreen, presumably to Hell, because they can't stay away from their own reflections. Ah, youth! As for Hyo-jeong (Kim Yoo-jin), the cell-phone user who's just lost her job as a home shopping spokeswoman for lingerie, she's let off easy. She actually graduates and meets the institute's ageless beauty Mi-hee (Lee Hye-sang) -- a former actress who's career ended with the talkies but who still looks absolutely fantastic. Yoga is the key to eternal youth, you know...if you combine it with Devil worship.

Director Yun Jae-yeon's Yoga Hakwon has a pretty cool ending. After struggling to escape the institute and reunite with her adorable if underpaid boyfriend (Choi Daniel) who happens to be making a documentary about Mi-hee's longtime director Kang Hee-jong (Jeong In-gi), Hyo-jeong finds herself released from the institute and walking through a subway station where she encounters rival students that she's were dead. Is she crazy? Is she possessed? Is she stuck in an alternate world that's basically hell? Only a sequel could tell us for sure.

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