If there’s one thing eastern horror films have taught me, it’s not to mess with the ladies. Seriously. If you scorn a woman, you better hope she doesn’t end up dead, because she’s coming back to haunt you like it’s nobody’s business.
The same holds true for Tae-Yong Kim and Kyu-Dong Min’s “Memento Mori” (1999). An installment of the “Whispering Corridors” series, “Memento Mori” follows student Min-Ah (Gyu-Ri Kim) who finds a diary shared between two fellow students, Hyo-Shin (Yeh-Jin Park) and Shi-Eun (Yeong-Jin Lee). Told partly in flashback, Min-Ah discovers Shi-Eun and Hyo-Shin were not only close friends, but lovers, as well. Shi-Eun is unable to bear the stress of her and Hyo-Shin’s relationship in the eyes of their schoolmates and pulls away from Hyo-Shin. Hyo-Shin sees this as betrayal from Shi-Eun and ends up committing suicide by jumping from the school roof. As revenge for the way her schoolmates treated her while she was alive, Hyo-Shin comes back to haunt the school.
A Sensitive Subject
I noted in my review of Jee-Woon Kim’s “I Saw the Devil” (2010) yesterday that I was taken aback by the level of violence depicted in this South Korean film. In “Memento Mori,” I was taken aback by the fact that there was a lesbian couple in a South Korean film. South Korea is typically a very conservative country and the idea of same-sex couples, while not as taboo as it once was, is still a sensitive subject. The fact that “Memento Mori” was released in 1999 makes this all the more surprising. It’s easy to see that Tae-Yong Kim and Kyu-Dong Min created a film worthy of the New Korean Wave that was occurring around this time (shameless plug: you can learn some more about the New Korean Wave on my website at www.nightmaremaven.com).
A more common theme that runs through the films of the “Whispering Corridors” series is the idea of suicide, particularly related to school stresses. In the case of “Memento Mori,” Hyo-Shin’s suicide has more to do with her girlfriend abandoning her than, say, her grades or getting into a good university, but it’s still school-related nonetheless.
A Decent Addition To Any Korean Horror Movie Night
The nonlinear way the story of “Memento Mori” is told can make it confusing at times, especially when you take into account that the diary that Shi-Eun and Hyo-Shin share somehow has some supernatural/hallucinatory qualities. And we can’t forget about the short blip of a scene where Shi-Eun and Hyo-Shin use telepathy – this plot point is never expanded on, sadly. Besides those minor details, “Memento Mori” almost reminded me of Tobe Hooper’s “Poltergeist” (1982) towards the end. Near the end of the film, when Hyo-Shin begins to terrorize the school, things start to get chaotic very quickly, kind of like the climax of “Poltergeist.”
Overall, this is a decent addition to any Korean horror movie night. So, what did we learn, kids? Don’t mess with the ladies, OK? Especially ones prone to dramatics and theatrics, cause if they end up dead, you’re in big trouble.