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Original Title:
Yeogo goedam II

South Korea 1999

Horror, Drama, Romance

Kim Tae-Yong
Min Kyu-Dong

Park Yeh-jin
Lee Young-jin
Kim Mun-sun
Baek Jong-hak
Kim Jae-in
Kong Hyo-jin
Han Min
Han Seung-Yeon
Lee Hye-mi
Lim Seong-Eon
Park Ji-Yeon

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Memento Mori

aka Whispering Corridors II

Story: Min-ah (Kim Mun-sun) goes to an all-girls-school. One day she finds a diary. She finds out that the diary is shared by Hyo-shin (Park Yeh-jin), a quiet, but intelligent girl and Shi-eun (Lee Young-jin), an athletic student. The two wrote down messages for one another in the diary and brought their mutual feelings on paper this way. The friendship between the two seems to have exceeded the relationship of normal girls, but there is not much left of their mutual love for one another, as Min-ah finds out. The two evade each other as best as they can. Until, Hyo-shin suddenly commits suicide at school.
Rumors spread, that Shi-eun was at the roof at the same time Hyo-shin jumped off it. Although Min-ah witnessed this herself she comes to Shi-eun's defense and tries to get behind what really happened that day. Maybe Hyo-shin was pregnant? Did she have an affair with one of the teachers? Min-ah gets closer and closer to an answer, but somehow she has the feeling that someone is watching her. At school, several students talk about having seen Hyo-shin's ghost and the longer Min-ah investigates things the more she comes to the conclusion that her schoolmates may be right. However, what secret is Shi-eun trying to hide and what does Hyo-shin's ghost want?

Review: "Memento Mori" is the sequel to the Korean horror film "Whispering Corridors". Even in the prequel, besides the horror-motive at an all-girls-school, the sociocritical undertone was in the moviemakers' focus. In the sequel the directors did put even more emphasis on this aspect of the story, which makes the movie even more profound. Thus, it's no wonder, that this sequel, which is actually not based on any of the events of the prequel or feautures any of the characters of the first part, has to be called more than just a simple horror film. If it's a real horror film you want you'll only get little for your money. The shocking moments are scattered throughout the film rather thin, and yet, there are some few scenes that prove to be quite scary thanks to the subtle horror involved. However, the audience the movie aims at surely isn't your average horror-fan, but lovers of profound dramas with a drift for the supernatural.

As difficult as it may be to put a genre-tag on the film as difficult it can be at times to follow the events on screen. This is mainly because the directors Kim Tae-Yong and Min Kyu-Dong really seem to like making use of flashbacks in their movie, and they don't exactly notify you when they do. So you might mix up certain time levels. Eventually, you might feel that the story is told on three different time levels at the same time, and so it is really essential to have a keen mind in order the keep track of events until the end. Nonetheless, it is pretty much impossible to grasp everything of the film when watching it for the first time. Even after a second viewing there may still be some questions unanswered, but most things are finally more clear. More importantly you know what scenes are especially important for the movie. Certain scenes might seem unimportant at first, but in the end they prove to be the key to understand what's going on!

However, as fascinating as the narrative structure might be, first and foremost it is just irritating for the viewer. The story is almost entangled in itself in an undissolvable manner. This is unfortunate as we get to see some outstanding stuff. Homosexual relationship isn't anything to be found on Korean screens, or at least is a topic that is not so popular with the people. So it doesn't come as a surprise that some scenes have fallen victim to the censors. Nevertheless, there is never any doubt about the quality of the relationship, which is certainly most apparent in a kissing scene between the two main actresses. The plot is astonishingly multi-layered and there is always something new to discover, even if most things are only hinted at. If you want to dive fully into the depths of this film, you might want to get the Director's Cut version which is 90 minutes longer than the original cut. However, for this review the Director's Cut wasn't available.

"Memento Mori" is sociacritical in a lot of ways. For starters, we have the love story between the two girls, that is something unacceptable by society. Furthermore, we also get a glance on the harsh and competetive everyday life of the students, teachers who beat their pupils, and students who make each others life a living hell. Sometimes, well actually on very few occassions, the directors also mix a bit of humor into these scenes, for instance when the girls are weighted and their body measurements are taken. What's making "Memento Mori" work so well, is its keen eye for the characters, who all seem to live and breathe. It is pretty difficult to get anything out of the two main protagonists at the beginning, but after a while we get to know their motives or at least learn to guess them. The actors all provide a great performance and do also a good job in introducing us to the complex story.

Apart from the story, that feels rather confusing at the beginning, the movie also has to struggle with a slow pacing, which can be quite tedious if you didn't know that you should have prepared for a drama instead of a horror flick. But that's exactly what "Memento Mori" is - a multi-layered drama, that also offers some surprisingly well-done subtle horror moments. Except of the stretched showdown, that feels rather contrived and too much wanna-be art-house cinema-like, there are some scenes that can bind you to your chair with their subtle and atmosphere-driven horror elements. This is mainly thanks to the wonderful cinematography and the very nice setting at an all-girls-school. Adding to the great atmosphere is a beautiful soundtrack that mixes choral classic music with horror score.

At the bottom line "Memento Mori" may be pretty frustrating for horror fans or viewers who lack the neccessary patience to sit through this movie, or the will to be constantly on alert mind for new informations. However, there is no doubt, that this horror drama offers so much more than your usual horror treat. Inventive and entangled to the core, there is much that will make you think. This also starts with the movie's title which may be freely translated as "Remember your death/that you are mortal".
Movie lovers who are willing to go for a more calm, supernatural drama, will find out that this movie is even superior to its prequel.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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