Thursday, September 18, 2008

Death Neglected III: ghost stories

Of the three movies I saw from the 2008 NY Korean FF, Epitaph (2007) really stuck with me. Originally, I dragged poor AxelA to this movie because I read good reviews claiming it was as much horror as it was romance. So I figured, oh, well so it must be like The Six Sense, where it was both thriller/horror and a…heart warming story. That can’t be bad. Right? Both AxelA and I watched the trailer decided that, on a scale of 1 to 10 scary, it was probably a 7. We can handle that.

Oh, how wrong were we.

Epitaph’s original name is “Gidam”, which literally mean “peculiar tales”. The movie is a three part ghost stories, linked only by the fact that the main characters all work at the same hospital (year 1941), and the stories happen within days of each other. It is, in essence, a series of traditional campfire ghost stories, rather than plots.

The first is about a dreamy young med student who is engaged to the hospital director’s daughter. However, days before his marriage, the corpus of a beautiful young woman arrives, and the student falls in love with her instead. This one, for me, was spoiled by watching the trailers and reading the synopsis (which I really don’t suggest doing. I haven’t found too many good synopsis, and they are either misleading or spoil the stories). The twist, however, came as a surprise for AxelA, who really enjoyed it. It was also suitably scary, kind of like the first hills on a roller coaster ride, before the big spins and drops come.

The second one is about a young girl who is the sole survivor of a car accident that killed her mother and step-father. Despite not having a scratch on her, the girl is haunted every night by her mother. Doesn’t sound like much, but to say “the mother haunting the girl was scary” is like saying “sticking nails in someone’s eyes is not nice”. 1/3 through this story, AxelA curled up into a ball in her seat, and I was staring very intently at the seat back before me rather than the screen. Later we described it as “UN-FUCKING-NECESSARILY terrifying”. Scenes from this story still haunt me.

Here I have to clarify, I’m not a horror movie buff. Maybe Zombie would have just laughed in the face of this movie. On the other hand, my response to The Ring was that it was just suitably scary. I had my mandatory night of bad dreams, and then got over it. This was so much worse.

The third story made the entire movie all worth it. The wonderful opening line was “Back then, I didn’t realize my wife had no shadows.” The story is about a professor who not only finds that his beloved wife might be dead, but might also the one behind the series of brutal Japanese soldiers murders. While both the first and second stories had their own twists, this one has several, and none of them you see coming. I haven’t actually enjoyed twists like these since Rosemary’s Baby, Usual Suspect, Six Sense, etc. AND it was able to complete so much in the time of 1/3 movie. It uses great conflicting emotions, and even more complex psychology. It’s hard to say anything about the story without spoiling it.

My only problem with Epitaph is the over-the-top, old school sound effects (it even uses the Psycho stabbing sound). But the rest is quite beautifully done (and is actually only the Jeong Brothers' debut movie). So far I have not been able to find region 1 versions of this movie, but at least there are a few versions that have English sub.

What I find interesting is that the English tag line is “Love conquers all…even death”, but when I read the Chinese review, it seems the tag line there is “Death, the only cure for love.” Having seen the movie, I feel that those two, combine, represent the stories best.


Zombie said...

This sounds really cool - it's been so long since I've seen a good Asian horror film. (Well, a couple years, at least...)

Cake Man said...

It's just been so long since I've seen a horror movie that was actually scary, not just tense because you know the killer is lurking somewhere in the house. I was beginning to think that the horror genre was just going to have to flat out be renamed the 'slasher' genre.

I'll have to check Epitaph out.

Zombie said...

Speaking of scary movies, Halloween is closing in... we should plan a week or two of horror genre-related posts.

League movie marathon, anyone?

DOA said...

I'll never sleep again once we go through zombie's horror collection.

Cake Man said...

If I was you, I'd just never sleep around Zombie.

king suckerman said...

Not sure if this has been done at this blog already, but it might be fun for each of us to blog about the scariest movie we've ever seen...too cliche?

DOA said...

oddly enough, the movie that freaked me out the most is still 2001 Space Odyssey...