There’s something oddly fascinating about the concept of schoolgirls. There is an implied innocence to them that isn’t allotted to schoolboys, but at the same time they are consistently sexualized or represented by older women. They exist in the societal limbo between children and adults, taking on one form or the other whenever it’s convenient.
Dreamcatcher’s music video “Fly High” takes advantage of the concept of school girls to tell a dramatic, fantastical story. The song is on their “Prequel” album, so it’s safe to assume that this is part of the story that was established by their previous music videos, “Chase Me” and “Good Night”. The music video is distinctly less horror than the previous ones were, and yet, it is unsettling in a very atmospheric way. There is still fantasy at play and something bizarre and uncanny, that makes you emotionally invested.
The song has a lighter feel than their previous songs, but still fits the rock pop feel that they’ve consistently had going. It sports nice piano at the beginning with a sweet drum beat, with an intense electric guitar and the occasional violin in the background. The vocals are smoother than they were in “Good Night,” probably to fit a more pop feel. Overall the song has a better drive and beat, so let’s see how the video holds up in comparison.
The color scheme is a generally soft palette with bold colors, covering most of the rainbow. It’s like watching a period piece, only colored infinitely better. Every time there is a shot, there are clear focal points, while everything continues to be coherent and have a consistent feel. The colors that stick out most are dark red, dark blue, varying shades of gold and white. There isn’t as much darkness as in other videos – night scenes have much more creative uses of light, and the video as whole does not have as dark of an atmosphere. That said the video as a whole isn’t bright and happy – it goes into a strange direction.
Since the story is so difficult to unpack and scattered in a bunch of smaller pieces, I’m going to address each one separately. We’re going to start with individual members, then break into pairings of members, and end with the scenes that have all of the members.
She only gets one scene by herself, but appears in scenes with other members. The one scene we see of her, she’s walking backwards through the woods.
Criminally underused, but still has her brief moment. The only one where she’s alone is her sitting in a bathtub, staring off into space while water drips from her hands.
She spends most of her time walking backwards and forwards through the woods, carrying a bunny toy. Like the other girls, she operates almost as if she’s in a trance. At one point though, we see her carrying something else – a rolled canvas.
Dami reprises her role as someone interested in the occult. We see her pull a book off the shelf, then read something to herself while on the floor. She’s surrounded by books, candles, and picture frames. There’s also a floating book for some reason – still can’t figure out why. She’s by the door, claiming the space as her own, and what appears to be the same bookshelf she got the book from, judging from the wood. As the camera moves closer while she’s speaking, feathers also scattered on the floor blow around her. Whatever she’s doing is working.
Gahyeon has one particularly interesting moment. We see her lying on a bed, surrounded by beautiful flowers of varying colors. There is also a single deer antler on the bed with her, by her feet. The deer antler is likely a callback to the deer heads in “Good Night”, but it does emphasize that Gahyeon’s character has something to do with nature. Her hair is even green on the ends. A hand hits the light switch and shuts it off. Feathers start flying about what we later realize is the room Dami is doing the ritual in. Gahyeon opens her eyes, and the door closes.
She thrashes about in the bed, while interspersed are clips of a woman in a white veil, carrying a candlestick, walk through the halls and towards Gahyeon. We don’t get a confirmation as to who this woman is but we can assume at this point it’s another member. Anyway, Gahyeon thrashes, seemingly immobilized. A hand with strange fantasy paint reaches out and covers her eyes.
Yooheyon is one of the two members with the most screen time. However her most important scenes involve JiU, so I want to cover those separately. The scenes that Yoohyeon gets by herself are vague, but nonetheless something that pulls in her audience. The first moment of note is Yoohyeon singing in the attic, and in the living room/parlor. The lyrics for this particular shot sequence translate into “Like I’m trapped in forgotten time / I’m trapped / In this night / A dangerous rainbow is engraved.” She makes a clock motion with her hands at the part about time, in the attic, and also a gentle choking motion at the part about being trapped, in the living room.
In a later shot, we see Yoohyeon walking towards a mirror that’s precariously placed in the yard, near the street. She walks towards it and stands in front of it ominously. Cut to her sitting in front of the mirror and touching it, and black drips out from the area near her hand and down the mirror. In the behind the scenes, Yoohyeon described it as “evil” that was supposed to be dripping out.
We also get a shot of her running through the yard, but then she stops and turns around to face the camera. When she does it cuts to a new shot of her, in the woods, wearing dark blue. She walks forward, her face empty and ominous. We see her walking away from the building, down the same path, closer to night than before.
It’s presumed, based on context clues, that Yoohyeon is the veiled figure that messes with Gahyeon. Those context clues are mainly just Yoohyeon’s predisposition to the evil things in the MV as well as the fact that we see Yoohyeon in the attic, same as the veiled figure. This is mostly conjecture but it could make sense.
Ah yes, JiU. She has the most screen time out of every member. The first shot is of her, surrounded by butterflies. The shot is very blue – the ocean behind is blue, the sky is blue, the dress is light blue, and the butterflies are blue. Later in the MV the butterflies catch on fire and disappear – this is important.
JiU walks with the other members outside in the daytime, in her schoolgirl outfit, before veering to catch something with a jar – when we get back inside, we see that it’s a spider. She spends a lot of time looking at it before one of her friends – who we don’t see at this stage – pulls her away.
We also see a girl playing piano in a room filled with black balls/balloons, on a piano covered with smaller balls like marbles. JiU walks by the room wearing a black dress, and peers in. Inside is another JiU, wearing the same dress as in the butterfly shot. JiU is shocked as the camera briefly zooms in. It moves quickly so you might miss it, but it’s there and definitely a provoking moment.
JiU is then seen running through the halls, looking over her shoulder. She seems afraid of something, but it’s not stated what it is that she’s running from. She opens the doors of the mansion and runs towards the gate. She seems urgent, but when she finally gets to the gate and closes it, she’s calm, as if there was no sense of urgency to begin with.
Siyeon and SuA
Their pairing is seen walking together through the woods in all their shots together, usually backwards. Sometimes they’re holding hands and looking at each other, other times they’re just standing, separate, Shining style. At one point, they’re holding hands and walking backwards into mist, but emerge from the same mist wearing cloaks. SuA holds the ritual book from “Good Night.” The two of them look at each other and smile.
JiU and Yoohyeon
The meat of the story is in one single interaction between these two. When JiU puts her captured spider on the table, it’s Yoohyeon who pulls her away. Behind her back she is holding a magnifying glass. So when JiU is out of the way, Yoohyeon kills the spider, letting smoke come off of the glass. This is supposedly what the burning butterflies allude to later in the video.
SuA, Siyeon, and Gahyeon
There’s only one shot of the three of them all together, but it’s of them standing perfectly still, peering down on the camera from a higher staircase. The shot is ominous from the unnatural angle, and there are deeper skulls all along the walls. There’s also a thread coming from Gahyeon’s position on the balcony. It’s unclear what the thread is supposed to be holding but it is there.
(It’s also worth mentioning, for sake of being thorough, that there is a shot with Dami, Yoohyeon, and what appears to be SuA running down the stairs, but I’m not sure if it’s of any particular significance.)
There are a number of scenes with all of the Dreamcatcher members. The first one of note is obviously the girls running in schoolgirl uniforms along the grassy path, then playing in retro-style dresses in the yard. JiU, SuA, and Siyeon all look at a birdcage before running to the other members.
The members play a Marco Polo style game where JiU has her eyes covered. The girls also play a game where JiU is against a wall and they have to run and chase her, but when she turns around to look, they all freeze. It’s a red-light-green-light situation. They end up going back inside, which is where we see JiU and the spider. The yard also has a modern art sculpture and picnic tables. There’s another scene that appears to be part of this sequence later in the music video, where Handong flies a black paper airplane. It looks like all the girls are running to catch it, but costumes indicate that this is a different day.
There’s an eerie sequence in the second verse, broken up into two parts. The first part takes place in a dining room inside the house and the second part takes place in the kitchen. The first part, we see six of the members seated, with SuA approaching the head of the table. On the right, Gahyeon, Handong, and Yoohyeon are sitting, and, directly opposite them, respectively, are Siyeon, Dami, and JiU. All six of them are sitting perfectly straight with books in front of them, and all six of them have their eyes closed. SuA carries a bell over before taking her stance. The girls all write in notebooks, before snapping their glances to the camera.
The second part of this sequence starts here, where we see the girls in the kitchen at a similar table, passing knives down the line to each other. SuA rings a bell, and they all start cutting their food – except it’s not actually food, it’s a white flower. It’s too far away to see specifically what it the flower is. If I ever find out the flower name, I’ll edit this article accordingly.
The last few shots are carefully crafted. We see SuA, surrounded by the other girls, drive a knife into the picture from “Chase Me”, cutting the edges to take it off the frame. We then see an overhead shot of the girls dancing and spinning on the yard, before standing perfectly standing still and looking up at the camera in dance formation.
This video was confusing at best, but still so beautiful to watch. Every image feels like a painting. Scrubbing through the video frame by frame made me appreciate it that much more. The shots are much better than the previous music videos by Dreamcatcher, with better focus when appropriate and no artificial sharpening. There are a handful of artificial effects, but nothing out of place. Everything feels balanced.
There is a lot of use of slow motion, long shots and short ones, a variety of different camera techniques. There are a lot of wide shots this time around, showcasing the entire setting, be it a room or outdoors. A lot of the camera techniques we associate with horror are used in this MV, particularly the one point perspective used in Kubrick-style films. There’s also awkward angles, often looking upward to the focal point of a shot. This causes a feeling of smallness, of wonderment, but also tension.
There is also a great use of natural space, and nature in general, to make the horror feel real. One of the biggest problems that “Chase Me” and “Good Night” had was weird use of effects. Good use of them, but often times they were clearly not real. The use of nature in this mv makes everything feel real, so when an effect appears it doesn’t feel out of place. Most of the aesthetic is created through props, set pieces, etc.
There is also a use of retro costumes and set pieces – nothing that shouldn’t be there is there. Everything is of the time, whatever the time may be. But it also doesn’t feel excessively retro. You can still put yourself in the position of the character and relate to them on some level. I mean malevolent witch girls is not the most relatable thing in the world, but the playfulness and curiosity of the Dreamcatcher members is still relatable.
There are a lot of story elements that are out of order in this, but the main recurring theme seems to be nature. Not just physical nature, but natural versus unnatural behavior. That said the film isn’t about nature. But just because there is a recurring theme does not mean that the film has to be about that theme. A Marvel movie can be all about superheroes but have a recurring theme and still be separate from the themes.
Let’s focus on the themes of physical nature first. Gahyeon’s bed is surrounded by flowers, much of the music video takes place outside, JiU has a predisposition to like bugs, and even the visuals make use of the four elements in various ways – we have water dripping off Handong’s hands, we have fire coming off the candles, we have earth EVERYWHERE, and since wind is an invisible element, we have hair blowing and butterflies. One could argue that witchcraft is working in conjunction with nature, so even the use of ritual books could be a force of nature. But that point is open to interpretation and part of a bigger discussion on the nature of witchcraft and religion, and this is a K-Pop blog so we’ll keep the focus geared towards the video.
The theme of natural versus unnatural behavior is the part that has the most relevance to this video. We see the girls interacting playfully with each other, playing games, exploring the surroundings, doing typical things that girls do. On the opposite side we have these strange scenes where the girls are standing perfectly still, faces blank, doing things in complete unison. There is of course the veiled figure, probably Yoohyeon, behaving like a ghost, existing in the limbo between the natural and unnatural. Siyeon and SuA walk backwards, an act that is inherently uncomfortable or involves video editing or time manipulation. You could even say that the cutting of the white flower is something unnatural – the white flower being on the plate and presumably being eaten is definitely not supposed to be happening. And, of course, there’s the act of burning the spider – death is natural but murder isn’t.
If I’ve said “natural” enough times to make you hate trees forever, don’t worry – let’s just analyze the story for a minute. It seems that some figure, and is affecting JiU, Yoohyeon, Gahyeon, and the other members. I don’t necessarily believe that Dami is the one doing the summoning, but she has the ritual book – I’m more willing to believe that she has an interest in dark magic. What’s happening with Dami just feels like it’s more isolated, more to do with her own journey into the unknown than the other girls.
The other girls, however, definitely seem to be increasingly effected by the dark magic in their world. JiU seems to be trying to protect herself, and by extension, the other girls, from whatever the dark entity is. But, ultimately, she succumbs to the evil being – we can see from the calm expression on her face that the being wins to some extent.
Yoohyeon also is affected by this and is the possible cause of these problems in the video. She burns the spider, she is touched by the evil, she walks around almost like she’s possessed. It seems like something has taken hold of her, and it’s something that she can’t control. It’s also possible that she is some sort of dark being herself, but since transformation is a motif (butterflies are a typical indicator of this theme) and we see her transformation into the blue dress, I don’t think she’s necessarily supposed to represent that.
As for what all of the girls are doing, where they’re all at the tables or acting playful. Symmetry and stiff, unnatural behavior are typically associated with horror films. Their use is often to indicate ghosts, or otherworldliness. When there’s symmetry, there’s something wrong. But if the girls are doing ghostly things inside the house but also being playful, they must somehow exist within the spheres of evil and innocence.
Overall there’s a lot to unpack in the Dreamcatcher video “Fly High”. I think this video is a must-watch in modern K-Pop. It has all of the big things and the little things, great camerawork and a great location, enough story to keep you invested and enough vagueness to make you curious. My biggest complaint is the lack of balance between members in this video, but that’s something that’ll come with time – all K-Pop groups go through a period where one member seems to be pushed into the front, usually around the debut. So with that in mind, let’s see if we get any answers to the looming question in their next video “You and I”, and if later videos balance out all the girls.