Movies

DVD Review: Memento Mori

Memento Mori

Tartan

We return, once more, to the sordid world of South Korean all-girl high schools that we first explored in Whispering Corridors.  This one, like the previous film, deals with the horrific results of peer pressure and a love betrayed.

 

One morning by the water fountain, Min-Ah finds a shared diary belonging to two of her classmates.  The two girls, Shi-Eun and Hyo-Shin, keep mostly to themselves and are thought, perhaps, a little odd by their peers.  In reading the diary, in which a page is written by one girl and then passed to the other who writes her own page and so on, Min-Ah learns that their relationship is romantic in nature.

Apparently, this was something of a big deal in South Korea at the time of its release (1999); both because of the inclusion of gay characters, and also the fact that it was targeted to a younger audience.  Of course, in 1999, it would have been a pretty big deal here, as well (actually, to this day there are still conservative groups who bitch when a gay character is included in a movie).

The relationship between the two girls is not balanced.  Shi-Eun seems uncomfortable, as if she hates herself for being gay.  Over the course of the film, she begins to withdraw from her lover; it’s not that she doesn’t love her, it’s that she wants to be ‘normal.’  Hyo-Shin becomes obsessive.  She asks Shi-Eun if she is ashamed of her (which she is, but won’t admit).  Hyo-Shin sleeps with one of her teachers, hoping to make Shi-Eun jealous, but when she tells her about it, Shi-Eun reacts with near disinterest.

It’s hard to evaluate acting in another language, as you can never tell if the inflection of a voice is forced or artificial.  However, you can consider tone, expression, and body language, and by those metrics, I think the performances are quite good.  In particular, the encounters between Shi-Eun and Hyo-Shin, you can see in their faces how their love sours a little with each passing day.

As with Whispering Corridors, a death occurs, and the diary shared between the two becomes the Horcrux through which the vengeful spirit enters the world of the living.  Though, unlike the previous film, this one is much more menacing and in-your-face about it. Speaking of which; though technically a sequel, this film shares none of characters from the original.  The only real connection is a passing comment from on of the girls that five people died at the school some time in the past

It’s amazing how dark and moody the film gets considering the fact that no one (save the ghost) dies.  But then, horror isn’t death itself, but the fear of death.  It’s no wonder horror in America, with its recent obsession with ‘torture-porn,’ has become indistinguishable from parody.

The first film felt a little melodramatic; a girl killing people because she wanted a friend.  Making the relationship sexual and highlighting the bullying she endured over it made this film’s ghost more understandable.

The DVD for Memento Mori from Tartan looks much better than Whispering Corridors‘.  It actually looks like a film shot in the ’90s, complete with poorly-integrated CGI.  Video is anamorphic, and the Korean soundtrack is included in DTS.  English subtitles are removable.

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