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Min-Ah discovers a shared diary and is fascinated to learn that two schoolmates she thought to be close friends have, in fact, begun a forbidden romance. Unable to tear her eyes away, the secret allure of the diary begins to consume her. When one of the diarys writers is found dead from an apparent suicide, rumors spread and Min-Ah begins to sense a strange presence. The once tranquil school is transformed into a morbid place of terror, as if the journals words, memento mori (remember the dead), have taken on life.
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I went into this movie expecting horror and got a story about close friends and sometime lovers at an all girl's school and what happens both after and before a young girl commits suicide. The story is fairly involving and I had no problem sticking around to the end but I can't recommend it as strongly as the other reviewers. It was okay. Frankly the story could have been told without the strangeness and it would have been more effective. The horror elements were pretty limp and were not central to the story.
A high school girl named Min-ah finds a very elaborate and colorful diary belonging to two of her classmates. She is fascinated by the contents, and the way it is put together. This is no ordinary diary. It doesn't just open one way and read left to right. There are nooks and crannies everywhere, and words going in every direction. At first, Min-ah is interested, faking sick so that she can learn more about the special bond these two girls share. Until the diary takes over her mind and seems to inspire hallucinations.
This movie is excellent all around, but my personal preferences dictate that the best thing about it is the fact that it portrays a part of school life that I will henceforth refer to as "that day." I'm not talking about anything so obvious as that day your lesbian lover "outed" you to your classmates by bringing you milk (that's so GAY!) and then kissing you on the mouth in the middle of school (not THAT gay--we've all done that). Nor am I talking about that day your roommate inexplicably committed suicide (and you learned that, sadly, that automatic 4.0 thing is just an urban myth) and started possessing everybody at school. I'm not talking about either of THOSE coming of age milestones, because, although they are also portrayed in Memento Mori, they are such obviously universal themes that they have been ingrained into collective consciousness in films too numerous to list. "That day," which is only portrayed, thus far, in Memento Mori, is much more obtuse than that.
"That day" is the day of school where they take all the girls into one room and make them stand around in their underwear. (This is an all girls' school, but if you went to a co-ed school, which I did, they separate the boys from the girls. You just know that the boys are somewhere doing some wild partying while you're standing in your underwear, suffering.) They check your hearing, eyesight, check for scoliosis, check your height and weight, and yell it out in front of everyone, so the whole class knows how how short, fat, and hunchbacked you are. Of course, I was, like, the coolest kid in school, so I never had that problem. (Although, in Memento Mori, when one girl identifies another as "the class nerd," her friend replies, "Really? I heard it was you! Real nerds never know they are." This movie really opened my eyes. Is it possible that all those years, I was not as popular as I thought I was?!?) And I know boys never went through this, because when I try to describe this scene to them, they never know what I am talking about. Somebody should make a movie about what the boys were doing while all of this was going on...
I was pretty impressed by all of this, because I have never seen a film portraying "that day" in any genre before. So the coolest thing about this horror movie is not that it is particularly scary, but for portraying "that day" of pointless humiliation...did you ever stop to wonder why the school even needed this information? Isn't it common sense that students would be getting taller and heavier with each passing year? Why check for scoliosis, and not TMJ? Isn't it a doctor's job to do physical exams? Does the school just like the fact that they don't have to adhere to those annoying "medical privacy" rules? Hmm...upon further reflection...I guess this movie is a lot scarier than I thought it was.
Something else very significant occurs on "that day" as well. (Something much more significant than having your height and weight broadcast to the student body, but in my opinion, something much less scary.) One of the students who kept the elaborate diary is found dead, apparently from suicide. Rumors begin to fly about what happened, why, and even if there is a reason why she chose "that day" to take her own life. One girl speculated that the girl was afraid people would find out she was pregnant, and so she killed herself before being examined. (Do you need further proof? "That day" should be abolished!)
Min-ah continues to read from the shared journal, and her visions become more intense. She witnesses scenes from the past, and seems to be visited by the dead girl, who wants her diary back. Now that's the part that gets me, though. If she really didn't want people reading her diary, why would she make it so colorful and elaborate and tempting? If you don't want someone looking into your private stuff, write your diary in a plain brown notebook with a no. 2 pencil. It's very easy to see why Min-ah would take the diary in the first place, and why she would continue reading even after her visions began.
The horror doesn't really get started until the second half, but the buildup is very effective. The relationship between the two girls, as well as the way the class sees them, is very well realized, and interesting to watch, even when it isn't scary. The biggest complaint about horror is that it's all shock and quick jumps, and not enough plot and character development. This one has so much character buildup, that it may seem like two completely different movies stuck together. But the two styles flow well into each other. And if more horror movies used character like this, Memento Mori wouldn't feel so unfamiliar.
The story focuses first on Min-ah, a young, popular school girl who follows the status quo of doing what would be considered cool until she stumbles upon the diary of two of her fellow students(the boyish Yoo Shi-eun and the sultry Min yo-shin) and upon reading, discovers the two are secret lovers. The story of how the girls became lovers is told in flashback and thats how the audience gets to know the characters mostly. Min yo-shin has a secret that nearly destroys her relationship with Yoo shi-eun, but the real nail in the coffin of their young love is pounded in when the girls mutually decide to "come out" so to speak, but Yoo shi-eun doesnt have the courage and turns her back on Min yo-shin, leading to a series of events that fall somewhere in the realm of whispering corridors and Carrie.
The film itself frustrated me greatly in that I think it would have served itself better as a drama. Most of the Ghost action takes place an hour into the film and only a few of the scares once all hell breaks lose register. What made this movie for me was the way the girls relationship is portrayed. It has a delicacy and a sympathy with the main characters that doesnt cheapen or betray the love story as alot of gay -themed movies tend to do. The fact that these girls are lesbians only really gets mentioned once, in all other references, it's an afterthought. Their relationship is shown as pure and innocent. They are simply two people in love and these scenes show a depth and an understanding of trying to keep a relationship together under difficult circumstances. The film goes above and beyond Whispering corridors as far as honestly portraying characters with depth and the conflicts young people face with a welcomed lack of preachiness and the performances hold the film together showing noone as two dimensional. If it would have stuck to that, it would have been perfect, but this being an entry into the school girl asian horror trilogy, the story turns into the classic ghost revenge story towards the end and that's where it lost me a little. Dont get me wrong, the first few scare moments really do work and any revenge tale is fun to watch, but as the film rose to a huge climax, it lost some of the emotional intensity that it had been building. Min-ah's role in all of this was tantalizing though as you begin to wonder (along with her) if she's falling in love with Yoo shi-eun. No questions are answered easily and that's fine, but as the movie climaxes, the chill factor steadily diminishes and this segment is the only point at which whispering corridors is the better movie. Its climax kept the creepy vibe going and also held onto the emotional sensitivity it had established where Mori loses its grip a little in trying to have its cake and eat it too.
Bottom line, this film is a beautiful look at love, relationships and rejection in a society that considers it all taboo, but slips a bit when it turns to full fledged ghost story. Its still recommendable though just for the sake of seeing a young couple rendered with such respect and sensitivity.
1. Whispering Corridors
2. Memento Mori
3. Wishing Stairs
5. A Blood Pledge
Memento Mori was my least favorite of the 5, with the other four films easily being 4-5 star films.
Memento Mori was confusing and I had a hard time keeping the actresses apart. I will probably watch it again in a few months & I'm sure that it'll be less confusing the second time around.
Teenagers annoyed me even when I was a teenager...with all their petty dramas & stupid decisions. And although all 5 films are about teens, Memento Mori came across as the most immature of all the films. Which is really ironic because some very adult themes are in the film.
If you plan to buy all 5 of the films, I think it's worth it to buy this one as well, but if you're just looking for a good movie to watch, I'd recommend any of the other 4 films over this one.
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