Memento Mori

Starring: Yeh-Jin Park, Young-Jin Lee and Min-Sun Kim
Tartan Asia Extreme
RRP: 19.99
TVD 3621
Certificate: 18
Available 05 December 2005

At the girls' high school to which she attends, Mih-Ah finds a diary shared by two other girls. Intrigued, she secretly keeps it, delving deeper into their lives and emotional state. What initially seems to be a close friendship turns out to be an altogether different relationship. When one of the girls publicly announces her feelings at the school, the other feels seriously betrayed, resulting in her suicide leap from the roof of the building. However, there are sightings of the girl after her death, and sudden events make the students of the school fear for their lives. Mih-Ah finds the key within a passage in the diary: Memento Mori, which means Remember the Dead. The girl is back and only Mih-Ah suspects what she wants...

This is a difficult one to quantify. Although promoted as a horror film it only metamorphoses into such during the last quarter of the film. Up to that point you'd be hard-pressed to even call it an emotional suspense story. How on earth did it obtain an 18 certificate when there's little or no violence, no true horror, and the only sight of blood is a bit of theatre stuff splashed near the suicide victim's body? Put succinctly, Memento Mori isn't scary in any way.

I see this as a work of lost opportunities. The diary itself looks varied and interesting in its design and subject matter; you can imagine opening it up every day to find something new. But when Mih-Ah discovers the pill in its spine and swallows it only to find the passage "I'm still working on the antidote," there's no attempt to explore that fear or unrest - what's it's actually doing to her.

The stash of keepsakes in the piano is a nice touch, but the discovery of the antidote comes as too much of a convenience and she takes the new pill without knowing if she was ever in any danger. The supernatural lock-in at the school could have been handled so much better. There is no tension as the students press themselves against the glass doors, and when Mih-Ah is knocked to the ground in the panic she simply and inexplicably stays there allowing herself to be repeatedly trodden on.

For promotional purposes Memento Mori has been used in the same breath as The Eye (a personal favourite of mine), The Ring (an obvious classic), and Audition (which recently got an airing on terrestrial TV). Let me tell you that this offering, whilst watchable, is not even worthy to kiss the feet of those Asian greats.

Extras include: Behind the scenes, a music video showing the score being applied to the images, the original trailer, and Asia Extreme trailers for other releases. The moving menus in diary form are excellent, gaining the whole an extra point.

Ty Power

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