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Mourning Grave - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2014

Horror, Comedy, Drama

Oh In-cheon

Kang Ha-neul
Kim So-eun
Kim Jeong-tae
Han Hye-rin
Park Doo-sik
Joo Min-ha
Joo Da-yeong
Kwak Jeong-wook
Park Choong-seon
Lee Ah-hyeon

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Mourning Grave

Story: In-soo (Kang Ha-neul) is still going to school, but has hardly any time to concern himself with the things normal teenager at his age deal with. That is because he can see ghosts. The more he helps them the more frequently they approach him. His uncle (Kim Jeong-tae) therefore advises him to ignore the ghosts in the future as if he couldn't see them. Thus, In-soo decides to start anew in his old hometown at his uncle's. However, he soon is approached by the ghost of a schoolgirl (Kim So-eun). Despite his initial attempts to ignore her a bond of friendship develops between the two. At the same time a masked ghost is running havoc in his class and it doesn't take long for a few students to disappear. Apparently students who are friends with Hyeon-ji (Han Hye-rin) and Hae-cheol (Park Doo-sik) vanish first. Both of them bully their classmates and seem to share a dark secret. In-soo is now desperately trying to find out who the vengeful ghost really is and what reason he has for his anger, while at the same time helping his new ghost-friend.

Review: We have already seen enough of classic horror movies coming out of Korea. Therefore, "Mourning Grave" seems to be a well-achieved alternation. Because comedic elements and a classic horror story are interwoven here. As if this weren't enough already there is even a small romantic story finding its way to the screen and as a bonus we also get some drama in the shape of a bullying story at school. With such a mix you have to ask yourself if this can really work out after all. The answer to that might be surprising. The movie actually could have been more convincing if it had gone more into extreme. Because as it is the film stays a bit too true to the genre. Accordingly, you won't get any real surprises. Still, this doesn't change the fact that this might probably be the best genre entry of the last few years from Korea.

Mourning Grave - Film Screenshot 11

Although we are presented with typical horror elements right at the beginning, the vengeful ghost with long hair and disturbing contact lenses, it is those very facts that are made fun of. Especially the uncle, who seems to fall for a woman ghost, serves as a vehicle for the humor. But even the story's hero has some unusual moments considering the nature of the genre, reaching its pinnacle in a romance between him and a girl who enters his life as a ghost and whom he doesn't want to help at first. After all, he just wants to be left alone. The romantic story is only decent, but it really would have been great to see how it unfolds in the end. But the movie doesn't have that time since it puts its focus somewhere else.

Mourning Grave - Film Screenshot 12

Unfortunately, the story revolves around your classic vengeful spirit, that makes its round at a school. When eventually the whole story is revealed - of course it centers around bullying at school - you feel very much reminded of the "Whispering Corridors"-series, which is also reflected in the movie's original title that bears some resemblance. The story is conveyed pretty convincing and that's in fact where it manages to score. Yet, the drama never really goes as deep as it should have, the reason for that being that there is a lot of time used on classic horror scenes. They are predictable and at times even look amateurish. There are a few jump-off-your-seat moments, but nothing more. Apart from that it's remarkable that presumably bloody scenes are never shown in detail, which is most likely because the movie wants to underline its rather lighthearted tone.

In fact, there are a few well written funny moments that make "Mourning Grave" stand out from the masses of horror films. This also leads to the characters having more color than it is usually the case in a film of this genre. Most of the actors have only had some experience in drama series, but are delivering neat performances. This makes Kim So-eun ("The Show must go on") almost look like a veteran, yet there is nothing outstanding from any of the actors. But the film makes still good use of its main character: a boy who actually doesn't want to help ghosts anymore, yet has no other choice. Particularly this aspect and the fact that he has to deal with everyday school life at the same time could have served as material for a nice comedy.

Mourning Grave - Film Screenshot 13

However, at the bottom line, the humor may be constantly breaking through strongly, but this doesn't make "Mourning Grave" a comedy at all. Still, even though the twist isn't that surprising, it delivers enough to make horror fans happy. That's where the movie's downside lies. Everything feels streamlined and according to a certain formula. And that's even the more unfortunate as the film has its greatest moments whenever it deviates from the usual horror film stuff and is more of a comedy, romantic flick or drama. If director Oh In-Cheon had shown more courage, and you actually get the feeling that he wanted to, an extraordinary picture could have become of "Mourning Grave". But maybe next time, because there certainly is some potential to be seen here. In any case, this movie has to be considered a genre entry that shouldn't be overlooked.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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