Memento Mori, aka Yeogo Goedam II, is an in-name-only sequel to a film by the English title, Whispering Corridors. Although this film bears no real connection to the first, they share a common theme of supernatural happenings in a girls' school. Additionally, both are horror films with strong character exploration. In my opinion, Memento Mori far exceeds the enjoyable Whispering Corridors.
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.