Dreamcatcher’s Good Night – Making Sequels Stand Out

Sequels are a tricky business in any sort of media. Sometimes they surpass the previous installment to the point where the previous installment loses its luster. Sometimes they fall short of expectations and ruin the original work. Sometimes they just remake their predecessor. Other times they go in a completely new direction.

Dreamcatcher’s “Good Night” is a direct sequel to “Chase Me”, the debut song after their reformation. It’s a continuation of the story-based music videos that have since become a staple of their group, sporting, once again, a timeless haunted feeling and a rock-pop track. In my article on “Chase Me” I stated the importance of a debut song being memorable, but I also said that the group could be forgiven for having some glaring problems with their first music video, on account of it being just that. So, where does “Good Night” fit in the realm of sequels? Is it a good video or a bad video? A worthy successor or a failed attempt?

The music itself is good, but more aggressive and less cutesy than “Chase Me” was, or than “Fly High” and “You and I” would be. It personally is a little too much rock for me, but still holds up. It doesn’t have a great vocal hook, but it still has a nice musical hook in the chorus. However the girls’ voices take on a raspier and more spoken quality. It isn’t my personal favorite of their songs, but it has some good moments – I particularly like the high notes best.

“Good Night” brings back the mid-20th-century style but brings in more elements that are 19th century or even medieval. The video has a different color scheme than “Chase Me” did, sporting more blue and varying degrees of pink and yellow, as opposed to the green, red, and gold. Both of these videos still make use of black, which makes sense as this is a horror style music video. Costuming for the girls is more along the lines of flowing dresses and skirts with varying skirt lengths, mostly long sleeves, and somewhat see through fabric at times. It seems though, from the long sleeves and often neck lengths of the dresses, this is a departure from the mixed sexy/cutesy concept from “Chase Me” – the plot of this video deals with malevolent spirits and it would not be appropriate to sexualize the girls in this context. (Of course, the skirts are extremely short and outfits more form-fitting in the dance segments, but asking girls to dance in full length dresses would probably cause injuries.) The girls appear to be more made-up, but not as pale as they did in “Chase Me” – instead, depending on the set and lighting, we get to see more gold undertones or cool undertones in their skin. All this aside, we can now break into the analysis.

The opening of “Good Night” is the closing scene of “Chase Me”, where Jo Donghyuk, an actor brought in for these music videos, breaks down the door of a hotel room to find a picture of the seven Dreamcatcher members, wearing all white, sitting like typical horror-movie dolls.

Donghyuk smiles ominously, we get a layered effect of film burn that looks almost like blood, before the song comes in with some ominous chimes. From here, the music video breaks into three segments, not including the dance pieces. These segments are the girls’ room, the forest, and Donghyuk’s room.

Donghyuk’s room is the starting point for the video, where he has a desk, two very tall bookshelves, two taxidermy deer heads, pictures all over the walls, and several candles. He also has an hourglass and a mirror, and a clock on the desk in a glass container. He pulls a book off his shelf, which has a leafy, natural texture on the cover, chains around it, and a skull for a lock. This book becomes a recurring motif not just in this video, but in other videos as well by Dreamcatcher. We’ll come back to this in a minute.

The girls’ room is where the most important story elements are, because what the girls JiU, Handong, and Dami do in this room in turn effect the events in other segments of the video. The room is an alternate version of Donghyuk’s room, with most of the same elements, just a few key differences. For one thing we see another cult ritual happening, this time with two skulls, one of which is on fire, an hourglass, several books, and more candles than a Yankee Candle store. Finally, the girls actually make use of the objects in their room as opposed to Donghyuk, who spends most of his time involved in his book.

The forest segments involve Siyeon, Yoohyeon, and SuA. Siyeon and Yoohyeon are pursued by two people in masks and hoods, and SuA is entrapped by wooden arms, almost skeletal. They seem to be coming from the tree, which begs the question why they’re doing that in the first place. Siyeon and Yoohyeon largely spend their time running away and hiding. At one point they make stick people from nearby sticks and hang them from the trees. It’s not clear if this is meant to be some sort of magic thing or just a distraction to let them get away but in any event it works.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t brought up Gahyeon, she’s largely not in this video for some reason, but she has a few moments. For one thing she gets to be in the girls’ room surrounded by bubbles, which is a cool image.

Then of course there’s the elephant in the room – her falling through space. Surrounded by books. And book pages. In a white dress. Yeah, it seems like even though we don’t get to see much of her, she has some crucial part in the story at play.

Anyway, the whole Gahyeon-falling-through-space thing is triggered by Donghyuk flipping to a particular page in the ritual book, as I’ll call it. He seems amused by it. Since this is a sequel, supposedly, to “Chase Me”, it seems like he wants to harness something that the girls have – maybe it’s their power or their souls. He still seems to be the protagonist of the story, but not one we should necessarily feel sympathy for.

JiU, Handong, and Dami, meanwhile, are not having it. They lurk in their world, by the mirror, watching Donghyuk read the book and occasionally messing with things in their world. At one point Donghyuk is flipping the book, when Handong appears on screen for an instant, peering through the mirror. Suddenly her eye is superimposed over everything and he’s forced to stop what he’s doing. He goes towards the mirror, only to see a glimpse of JiU in the mirror.

Not long after, we get to Dami reaching through the mirror to get the ritual book. The girls return to the circle and we see JiU burning the page that triggered the wooden hands on SuA, which then cuts to SuA surrounded by the burning arms, unscathed.

JiU, Handong, and Dami rip books off the shelves, which causes a whirlwind of papers inside Donghyuk’s room. Donghyuk walks towards the mirror, picking up a dreamcatcher, then looks back into the mirror, which is empty.

In between inserts, the video cuts to him, now entrapped in the mirror, with JiU, Handong, and Dami all looking at him, now wearing medieval cloaks. The final few shots of the music video are of the girls walking through the woods, all wearing cloaks and carrying torches. One of them (presumably Dami) drops the book, and we see the book on the floor of the woods as the music fades out.

“Good Night” is much harder to unpack than “Chase Me” because there is more going on, as well as a universe with rules that might be well-defined as far as the script is concerned, but are not well defined by extension to the viewers. When that happens it’s hard to differentiate aesthetics from actual story elements.

The color scheme is not nearly as bold as it was in “Chase Me” and not as memorable as it is in later videos, particularly “Fly High” and “You and I”. It does not differentiate particular segments of the video well, at least in terms of color. The biggest counter argument to this point is the fact that the inserts have a variety of color schemes, including pastel pinks that dominate the screen, and the two rooms are differentiated very slightly in hue. The girls’ room has always felt more blue to me, and Donghyuk’s room has always felt more purple. However, when I went back to watch the video so I could write this review, I realized that the rooms were mostly lit and colored the same, but the outfits of the characters were what I was focusing on – the black allowed the purple-ish hue to come through in Donghyuk’s room, and the light colors allowed the blue to be more visible in the girls’ room. They were also lit slightly differently, but more to keep light on the girls on the floor than to indicate an atmospheric change. So the two spaces have very few differences ultimately, which feels like a wasted opportunity – why not have more differences in the mirrored rooms?

The cuts are also extremely fast and the camerawork is more jittery. The sharp focus problem that “Chase Me” had comes back, only now we have weird blurring effects. So the video feels more artificial than Chase Me did, where it was still fairly consistent. We also have the wide aspect ratio, which makes these things stand out even more.

Of course, not everything about this video is negative. It has very compelling imagery and a clear feeling of a story. The dance routine is definitely powerful and the costumes, while I don’t like them as much as I like them in Dreamcatcher’s other videos, they do give the sense of who these characters are and make you feel intrigued. The sets are good, despite the poorly distinguished color grading. And the girls, of course, come across very well. Their inserts show a lot of personality and make you want to watch the video more. So while the film doesn’t do the best job it could have, it still does well insofar as making you want more.

“Good Night” hammers in the fact that something is going on with the members and that Donghyuk seems to be intrigued by it. He seems to know a lot about who these girls are but not anything about their abilities or how the magic works, and yet he definitely wants to harness their power. The ritual book is ultimately what makes this clear, at least to me. He seems amused and intrigued by the book, as if it holds answers. Furthermore, when he opens it and flips to pages, that’s when we see Gahyeon falling and SuA being attacked by a tree. He doesn’t appear to be causing these events but his ambivalence thereof seems to be a factor in why they’re still ongoing.

However, JiU, Handong, and Dami are consistently working at something, which ultimately appears to be bailing their friends out of their situation. I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re “higher up” or “more powerful” than their fellow members in this video but they seem to have more of an understanding of how their world works and how to manipulate it. That said, all seven of them seem to have some understanding of how to manipulate this world. SuA and Gahyeon seem victims of the world but that might just be because driving plot points of seven different characters is a tough thing to do. But the girls in the room clearly understand the magic at play, and Siyeon and Yoohyeon know how to get away from the people who are chasing them.

Why they’re being chased is ultimately unclear, and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the fact that their previous song was called “Chase Me”. My money is on the chasers being general demons of the mirrored world. They are definitely trapped in that world against their will, but it is not apparent as to whether or not they ever get out of it. It appears that they do, or at least begin some sort of journey out of that world. If we presume that they’re dead, then maybe the mirrored world is some sort of purgatory or hell, and they have to move on, be it to heaven or to a reincarnated life. We don’t have much to go on to that end but it is a possibility.

“Good Night” tries to be more original than “Chase Me” was but falls short of its predecessor. However, that might have been beneficial to Dreamcatcher. “Fly High” came out not long after “Good Night” and that video has a lot of original elements, traditional horror, and K-Pop staples, making it a beautiful video. “Good Night” put the pieces in place for Dreamcatcher to explore more original ideas into their later videos, while still giving them a lot of room to grow. It is a great sequel in that respect, because it makes the viewer want to see more, and that, ultimately, is what a music video is there to do.

Dreamcatcher’s “Chase Me” – A Study in Debut

Why is a debut important

In K-Pop, the debut is one of the most defining moments of that band’s career. Whether it establishes a style or is the jump-off point for the following concepts, a strong debut will factor into that band’s success. Of course that is not true for every band. Girls’ Generation’s debut was marked with a black ocean, where all of the audience members turned off their lightsticks. But it certainly was a defining moment for their careers nonetheless, especially when you consider the success that followed for them.

An introduction to Dreamcatcher

In 2017, the band Dreamcatcher went for an ambitious goal – a horror music video re-debut. Horror music videos, while not common in K-Pop, are certainly not unfamiliar. The most prominent ones that stick out to me are VIXX’s “Voodoo Doll” and Cross Gene’s “Black or White,” but there have certainly been others since then (though I would argue that the first truly successful and impactful horror MV was “Voodoo Doll”). But Dreamcatcher’s ambition comes from them being a female group, and them doing this as a debut music video.

Dreamcatcher’s first video, “Chase Me”, was a curious blend of styles. The song itself was curious –  a rock/pop song more akin to an anime theme than anything else. The vocals were strong, backed by heavy guitar music, but with a melodic edge that still worked with the girls’ voices beautifully. It was definitely the right song, for the right band. It certainly wouldn’t be for everybody – but there certainly is an audience for this style and Dreamcatcher makes it sound great.

The video sports an early 20th century vibe with some mid-to-late 20th century contextual items to make it seemingly timeless. The sets are beautifully ornate, in mostly dark colors, both cold and warm. The most common colors are darker shades of teal, green, blue, and gold. The costumes in mainly black, white, or a maroon-red. The makeup is mostly pale on the girls, with red/dark pink lipstick mostly and black eyeliner, but nothing extravagant. (They do a better job in later videos of not whitewashing the girls.)

With all this in mind, the analysis can begin.

Check-in

Storywise, it’s a little hard to follow. However, you’re not completely lost.

The video opens with Jo Donghyuk, an actor brought on for this project, walking through a hallway. This could be an apartment but judging from the suitcase, I’m going to just say it’s a hotel room. Donghyuk has a suitcase in one hand and a camera in the other. He films the room number, 808, before he enters. Right as he’s about to open the door, however, he sees JiU standing on the other end of the hall, holding a doll and wearing a white and gold dress.

Judging from the headwear, we can infer that she’s a nurse of some kind, or at least dressed as one. But that does call into question why she’s holding the doll if she’s dressed like an adult. I’m willing to buy that she’s dressed as a nurse for aesthetic purposes. I mean, anyone who’s heard of Silent Hill will know that nurses are a horror staple. However, I’d like to give this video a little more credit and say that there is a purpose for the costume choice.

In any event, Donghyuk films JiU, only for her not to appear on the camera. He then decides to ignore her and go inside his room.

Inside the apartment

The room Donghyuk enters is a pretty standard hotel or apartment room. However, with ornate furniture, it appears.

Donghyuk takes out some papers and new clippings that he’s evidently collected over the years. He tries to annotate them, but his pencil breaks. (I mean, to be fair, he is sharpening his pencil with a knife. I wonder what elementary school he went to that taught children to use knives as pencil sharpeners.)

Looking at the papers he’s reviewing, there’s some text, apparently in French and Italian, that reads:

“O.L. DE [covered]
88, Rue Osseghem,
BRUXELLES – 8
Belgique
Stmo. Signor DE RYNCK!”

Bruxelles is French for Brussels, Belgique is French for Belgium, and Signor is Italian for Mr., akin to the Spanish “Señor.” The author of the letter is apparently writing from a hotel, judging from the stationary. Due to the weathered quality we can infer that this is probably not a recent letter, but something archival. Behind the paper, we seen an envelope from the same hotel. Further behind that, there’s something that reads PATIENT twice, so the nurse’s outfit that JiU is wearing starts to make a bit more sense.

Of course, I’m neglecting the elephant in the room. That would be the picture of the 7 Dreamcatcher members sitting like they’re the Shining twins in white dresses. The photo is also weathered, to the extent that I wouldn’t be surprised if the photograph came from the letter. This, does, however, note what everyone probably inferred at this point – we’re dealing with seven ghosts of young girls. If we want to stretch this a bit we could also make a guess as to where we are – either the Palme Lugano hotel that the letter game from, or Brussels, Belgium. But that’s still stretching it a bit.

Chaos incarnate

Donghyuk proceeds to deal with a number of strange occurrences, precipitated by the ghosts of the girls he’s apparently seeking. SuA swings a pendant back and forth, in typical hypnotic fashion, while Donghyuk sleeps. When he wakes up, though, he can’t see her. Siyeon holds the door closed and keeps him from leaving. Gahyeon throws some books off a shelf to startle him. Yoohyeon changes the numbers on all the doors so that they all say 808. JiU floats in the hallway, sensually posed and ominously staring at Donghyuk.

The only two who are seemingly absent from this are Handong and Dami. Handong gets a few inserts where she’s sitting on a table and there’s a lamp swinging around her. She’s also in the reflection of a window that Donghyuk is looking through. Dami is the subject of – and later participant – of a cult ritual involving the other girls, also an insert. The cult imagery is recurring in many of Dreamcatcher’s later videos.

The ritual image appears later in the video, towards the end. In this context, it is inside one of the hotel rooms and in a video format. However, it’s not the ominous ritual with the girls in veils as it is in the insert during the rap break with Dami. Instead it’s bright, and cheerful. It seems as though the girls, though their pranks have been seemingly harmless in their afterlife, were all involved in something a bit less harmless than that, but were still somewhat innocent.

End Game

The girls’ pranks end up backfiring on Donghyuk. He finds himself locked out of his hotel room, hallucinating himself without eyes, and being tormented by JiU. He rewatches the film of himself getting scared and crawling away from JiU who, as previously stated, is imperceptible by his camera.

In any event, he is later forced to break into what appears to be his hotel room with an axe. He breaks in, but the room has changed. The walls are light. The photograph of the girls is framed prominently. We see some more flashbacks of the girls in that room specifically, having a pillow fight, then we see Donghyuk smile ominously. The screen then cuts to the band’s name, as well as the song’s name. Furthermore, the song playing at the end are the opening notes from their next song + music video, “Good Night”. Even if you didn’t know that, it seems that there is something more there, a lack of a resolution.

I mean…there’s also a To Be Continued there. But the ominous smile makes it more interesting.

limited use of color

There are many elements here that make this video memorable. First and foremost the aesthetic of the whole video keeps you on your toes. I always applaud K-Pop videos for having the perfect color scheme and aesthetics. I find that many other music genres, while they may look pretty, don’t have the right colors to associate moods with. Sure, bright colors might indicate happiness, but just because you have the bright colors of a Xerox machine in your video doesn’t mean you actually use them well.

Dreamcatcher’s color scheme is mostly on point. I say mostly because it suffers from Harry Potter syndrome – if you’ve seen The Deathly Hallows Part 2 you know that having too much oversaturated green isn’t the right thing to do to give a sense of tension. Dreamcatcher’s video has this issue, though to an infinitely lesser extent. It’s also fixed in “Good Night” so I’m willing to write this off as just first-video problems.

Pros and cons

Let’s focus on the positives for a minute. The timeless nature makes it more mysterious. The practical lighting makes it feel more real. The ghosts have a playful aura about them and the protagonist is both bland enough and compelling enough to show be a good viewer-insert character. There’s plenty here to leave you wanting more.

However, no video is without sin, and this video certainly has them. The dance routine, while beautiful, is not shot well. Things move too quickly and there is some awkward slow motion segments that leave you ultimately confused. It makes the entire routine hard to focus on – which is a tragedy, because the dance is gorgeous.

There is also the problem of too many flashing/flickering lights, which is something that many K-Pop videos suffer from. It feels like a lazy way of trying to ramp up the tension. That doesn’t mean it can’t be well done. VIXX’s “Voodoo Doll”  is an example thereof- however, that video is more about horror than playfulness. There is also a lack of soft focus. Everything feels almost too sharp and while that can come across as cinematic, the aspect ratio is wide so the sharpness comes across as artificial.

The video is still strong in spite of these problems. Each of the girls is highlighted as unique, though there isn’t a whole lot of overt personality showing. The inserts of the girls are cute, sexy, ominous, in whichever way best suits them. I think that JiU and SuA are most compelling here because their inserts are the best constructed and their costumes stick out the most. Furthermore, JiU is clearly relevant to the larger story these videos tell, so I kept my eye on her the whole time.

The themes of “Chase me”

As stated earlier, “Chase Me” plays with notions of innocence, maturity, and sexuality. It tries to balance the different themes, presumably for marketing, but also within the context of the story. Women’s sexuality is often characterized as temptation. With JiU in this video, that seems particularly evident. It seems that if she is not tempting the male character, she’s mocking him for some reason. However, there is a juxtaposition here with the childish nature of the pillow fight scenes or the pranks that the girls pull. So regardless of the tempting nature of JiU in context, she still seems like a deep and nuanced character, because she has the capacity to be childish.

In terms of maturity there are multiple themes at play here. For one thing, horror always forces an adult growth in a character, or freezes a character in childishness. “Chase Me” does both. Even the playfulness of the characters seems mocking. The cult ritual features Dami as the main victim, with dolls occasionally in her place. Eyes are ripped off of the teddy bear, and that in turn effects Donghyuk. So there is a subversion, or even rejection, of childhood.

References to horror media

There are plenty of references to horror films in this. I’ve mentioned numerous references to The Shining, but there are even more. There’s the rug being hexagonal, and while this isn’t the same pattern as The Shining it definitely is a callback to that. There is of course the use of cameras, a la The Ring or Paranormal Activity. But what got me most was Donghyuk losing his eyes in the mirror. It appears to be a reference to Poltergeist, where a character hunting a ghost watches himself decay in a mirror and literally tears his flesh off.

When I first saw that scene, I was fifteen, and it scared me out of my mind. The effect had looked cheesy at the time but body horror has always stopped my heart. The films that are supposedly alluded to, or at least came to mind for me, all have something to do with maturity or children, particularly The Shining and Poltergeist. The eye thing could also be a reference to SHINee’s “Married to the Music” where everyone loses a body part – Kibum loses his body, Minho loses his head, Jonghyun loses his mouth, Onew loses his nose, and Taemin loses his eyes. I find this unlikely, but hey, it is K-Pop, so maybe this was something that they thought of.

Using tension

There’s something else – disguising tension as fear. There’s a video by YouTuber Dan Root that elaborates on this concept further in the context of video games. The given example is Metroid, specifically Metroid Fusion. Dan Root states that using techniques to increase tension but masking them behind story elements related to fear in turn causes you to feel fear.

A similar principle holds to  “Chase Me”.  I would not say that “Chase Me” is particularly scary, but it is definitely unsettling. Further, you get the sense that the protagonist is scared. It can’t be too scary because it’s trying to work with a number of other themes, but it manages to make you feel unsettled on the first viewing.

Final thoughts

Overall, the video is well done, despite the flaws that stick out. Again, it’s easy to be forgiving when it’s a debut. Super Junior’s “Twins” has some of the worst hair styles ever and immensely cheesy effects but, since they’ve gone above and beyond that since, no one cares that there were glaring issues with those videos. (It was also 2005.)

It is truly admirable, that Dreamcatcher was able to pull off something so memorable on the first round. They kept this up with later videos, making sure to elaborate on the story, and add more cinematic qualities. But “Chase Me” has charm to it, charm that could only come from a new group. It makes their growth that much more meaningful, but at the same time is hard to surpass. Their next video, “Good Night”,  gives even more insight into the world these characters live in, but still take another direction. And as we’ll see next week, it pays off.