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Death Bell

Theatrical poster
Hangul 고死: 피의 중간고사
RR Gosa: Piui Junggangosa
Directed by Chang
Produced by Kim Kwang-soo
Seong Been
Written by Chang
Kim Eun-kyeong
Starring Lee Beom-soo
Yoon Jeong-hee
Nam Gyu-ri
Kim Bum
Han Na-yeon
Music by Kim Jun-seong
Cinematography Heo Seong-ryong
Editing by Yu Yeong-ju
Distributed by Mirovision
Release date(s) 6 August 2008
Running time 88 min.
Country South Korea
Language Korean
Budget 1.3 billion
Admissions 1,636,149
Gross revenue $9,274,859

Death Bell (Hangul: 고死: 피의 중간고사; RR: Gosa: Piui Junggangosa) is a 2008 South Korean film. The only Korean horror film to be released over the summer of 2008, it is the first feature by former music video director Chang (real name Yoon Hong-seung), who also co-wrote the screenplay. Death Bell stars Lee Beom-soo in his first horror film role, and K-pop singer Nam Gyu-ri in her acting debut. Set in a Korean high school, the film's native title refers to gosa, the important midterm exams that all students are required to sit.[1]



The film is set in a high school, where an elite group of twenty students—including rebellious heroine Kang Yi-na, her timid best friend Yoon Myong-hyo, and her would-be boyfriend Kang Hyeon—are taking a special class for their college entrance exam. After Kang Hyeon is nearly strangled and another student throttled in the restroom, the classroom TV screen switches to an image of top-ranking student Hye-yeong trapped inside a fish tank that is slowly filling with water. A disembodied voice announces that her life depends on the exam questions he will set for them, and that a student will die for every question the class gets wrong. Trapped with the students are head teacher Hwang Chan-wook and English teacher Choi So-yeong. Yi-na realizes that the students are being killed in order of their rank in the class, and she is ranked fifth.



Shot on HD video with a budget of 1.3 billion,[2][3] Death Bell is the feature film directorial debut of Chang, a former music video director,[4] who also co-wrote the screenplay with Kim Eun-kyeong. The film also marks the acting debut of Nam Gyu-ri,[4] a singer with K-pop trio SeeYa, and stars veteran comic actor Lee Beom-soo in his first horror film role.[5]


The only Korean horror film to be produced in the summer of 2008,[5] Death Bell made its premiere in July 2008 at the 12th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival.[2] Post-production on the film had been rushed in order to have it ready for the festival,[6] and director Chang had to apologise for the poor state in which it was shown.[7]

Released on 6 August 2008 in 366 theatres nationwide, the film grossed $2,370,785 and received 575,231 admissions on its opening weekend, placing it third at the local box office.[8][9] By its third week, Death Bell had climbed to second at the box office,[10] and as of 14 September 2008 had grossed a total of $9,274,859.[11]

Death Bell had looked set to become the second most popular Korean horror film after A Tale of Two Sisters, which attracted more than 3 million viewers in 2003; however, admissions of 1,636,149 (as of 14 September 2008) were less than those recorded by R-Point and Wishing Stairs.[4][9][12] Nevertheless, the film attracted more than twice the number of viewers required to break even at the box office.[13]

Death Bell was released on DVD on 8 November 2008.[14]

Critical response

Derek Elley of Variety found Death Bell to have a "neat concept" with "enough shocks and gore to keep genre addicts contented", and commented, "After a fairly conventional half-hour setup, the pic keeps the tension high with tight cutting and a no-flab script that ups the student body count in some especially inventive ways. Solution to the whodunit is less convincing than the lead-up, with a finale that doesn't deliver on expectations. But the journey there is fine, with Lee, better known for comedy, interestingly cast as the students' tough prof."[6] Kyu Hyun Kim of was more critical of the film, saying, "Death Bell annoyingly combines prettified, slick visual filmmaking (but with no real depth) and gag-inducing torture porn excesses: it's simultaneously tepid and lackluster on the one hand and gross and offensive on the other"; he also regarded the screenplay as a "fetid mess" with an unconvincing central premise, but gave credit to the performance of Lee Beom-soo.[15] A review for Twitch also labelled the film's premise as "ridiculous", going on to say, "Lee Beom-Soo certainly tries, and the tempo keeps building decently until the end, but there’s really no vibe to it. It’s just a succession of tortures and murders, with no sense of surprise, no interest... [and] no thematic consciousness whatsoever".[3]

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Korean Slasher GOSA (DEATH BELL) Coming To DVD!". Twitch, 3 November 2008. Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  2. ^ a b D'sa, Nigel. "Korean Films at the 12th PiFan". Korean Film Council, 18 July 2008. Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  3. ^ a b "[K-FILM REVIEWS] 고死 (Death Bell)". Twitch, 4 September 2008. Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  4. ^ a b c Yi Ch’ang-ho. "Gosa is unafraid of big-budget competitors". Korean Film Council, 22 August 2008. Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  5. ^ a b "He's one of the most recognized comical actors in Korea - Lee Beom-soo!". Arirang. Retrieved on 5 November 2005.
  6. ^ a b Elley, Derek. ""Death Bell"". Variety, 2 September 2008. Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  7. ^ Kim, Kyu Hyun. "2008 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival". Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  8. ^ "South Korea Box Office August 8–10, 2008". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  9. ^ a b South Korean Box Office for Death Bell. "Death Bell (2008) - 고死: 피의 중간고사". HanCinema. Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  10. ^ "South Korea Box Office August 22–24, 2008". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  11. ^ "South Korea Box Office September 12–14, 2008". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  12. ^ R-Point received 1,689,000 admissions in 2004. "Ranked Box-Office Results" (2004). Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  13. ^ Jang Jiyun. "Low Budget Films Gaining Popularity With Good Storylines". Arirang, 24 September 2008. Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  14. ^ "Korean horror DEATH BELL aka Gosa on DVD". 24framespersecond. Retrieved on 5 November 2008.
  15. ^ Kim, Kyu Hyun. "Death Bell". Retrieved on 5 Nove,ber 2008.

External links

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