Different countries develop different horror tropes. In America, we have the body count slasher. In Italy, it’s the brutal gialli. In Japan, it’s the ultraviolent ghost. And in South Korea, it’s young women brought down by their own greed with irony.
Yoga is all about the pursuit of beauty. A young television host replaced by a younger pageant queen joins a yoga intensive to reclaim her beauty. She is joined by a small group of women with the same goal. They are given one week and three rules to follow: don’t shower within an hour of working out; don’t eat outside of specified meal times; don’t look in a mirror while training. Their teacher warns of dire consequences for those who do not obey.
In many ways, Yoga is very similar to Suspiria. The film obsesses over the beauty and athleticism of the students and teacher. Strange voices and screams echo through the halls at night. The students are forced to room together and warn each other about the rules while directly competing for advancement in classes.
This film also suffers a very similar fate. The ending is so far removed in tone, plot, and style from everything that came before that you just might get angry. There’s a strong sense of betrayal when a horror film refuses to meet the expectations it sets up just to have a twist ending. It’s even more infuriating when, in both these films’ cases, the twist ending doesn’t even add up.
To Yoga‘s great credit, what does work is very unique and disturbing. This horror film is all about the sound design. Vaguely New Age music is mixed with cracking bones, whispers, and the haunting ring of finger cymbals. The beauty of skilled yogis doing complicated meditation sequences is corrupted by an incongruent soundtrack.
Within the confines of the South Korean style, Yoga is okay. The are films with far more imaginative punishments for greed and rule breaking. Yoga just begins to hurt the young women if they break the rules. The ultimate goal is beauty, but turning each victim ugly before they die only goes so far in a cosmic revenge fantasy.
Yoga is a flawed beauty of a horror film. The execution of the yoga sequences as a way of establishing time and destruction is great. These scenes are merely a beautiful facade on a grabbag of ugly, unimaginative horror cliches.
Thoughts on Yoga? It’s one of those Netflix Instant titles that kept popping up in my recs and beat me into submission. How about you?