Movie Review: Mourning Grave (2014)
Truth be told, i am an avid Asian thriller lover. To be more precise, South Korean and Japanese thrillers always attracted me with their otherworldly aesthetic. There are various types of thrillers, psychological ones, horror, suspense/crime thrillers, etc. My favorite type have to be horror films, you know, the ones with the little girl/boy with the pale face that sounds like a rusted door opening to the wind’s roar and/or a woman in her 20s/30s, always with the pale virginity of death painted on the canvas of her face, that sounds like the groan of a tractor’s engine. Anything filled with vengeful ghosts at the present and pale-faced as snowflakes figures is my just my type of horror. And there’s always a humble ritual taking place in order to cherish the movie to the fullest and treasure its eerie delight. First of all you light a candle, then you turn off the lights, you close your door and you turn on the volume. At this point, sudden and frightful scenes possess a new meaning!
Lately i’ve been thinking that it’s been some time since i last watched a good horror movie. I was between Manhole for Jung Yu Mi (Discovery of Romance) and Jung Kyung Ho (Endless Love) reasons and Mourning Grave for Kim So Eun (Liar Game) and Kang Ha Neul (Angel Eyes) reasons. Of course the cast plays an important part when it comes to a movie or a drama, but the scenario has to be tempting as well, both of them earned my trust, but i managed to proceed randomly with Mourning Grave in the end. Manhole will turn to life before my very eyes in a few days, hopefully enough. As for now, i am really glad i picked Mourning Grave since it rewarded me and served its purpose well and to be honest, it surprised me pleasantly with its variety in terms of scriptwriting.
In Su is a high school student who was gifted/condemned with a charisma/curse. He has the ability to see ghosts, hear their stories and the reasons behind their grudges against the world of the living. Had they passed away due to physical reasons, everything would be fine and the afterlife would lie ahead of them. The thing is, their bonds with the living were cut off violently and they suffered an unjust death and their haunted souls stayed behind to make the guilty pay for their crimes in front of a violent court far away from the human laws. Once you’ve found yourself in this position you can patiently wait for the court’s sentence to be executed, death. In Su is not the only one his his family that has the ability to see ghosts, his uncle, Sun Il, has the same ability and it seems like a family tradition for many generations since their great grandfather was a renowned exorcist. In Su had to leave his hometown when he was young because he was being bullied as he was being made fun of for seeing ghosts. He had no other choice, changing school environment was the only way to survive.
Well, at the present, things don’t seem to have changed much. He returns to his hometown and starts living with his uncle. Even though he wasn’t around for a long time, his ties with the past still linger. In the past he had helped to solve the murder of a little girl, A Young. At the present he pays a visit to her parents to show his respect, a heartrending scene that brings relief to In Su knowing that her soul was released from this earthbound prison. At his new school bullying is still a problem and many of his classmates suffer at the hands of a bullying team. As time passes by he senses violent ghost signals on the horizon and realizes that something just doesn’t feel right. There’s a ghost grudge floating all over the place and he tries to figure out what’s going on. At school he feels lonely, but he’s not alone. There’s a mysterious ghost girl accompanying him at his daily tasks. His main task is to find out what’s going on with the mysterious ghastly grudge going on at the school and solve the mystery behind the ghost with the surgical mask, especially after some of his classmates start disappearing one after the other.
Mourning Grave balances between two worlds, a bright and breathing world and a world full of agony and unpredictable horrors that come to the surface. Director Oh In Chun manages to reflect both worlds the way they deserve it and as a big plus stands the fact that he impressed me with his first attempt! Cinematography either stands on the light or drowns in impenetrable darkness and by that i mean when it gets dark, it gets really dark. We don’t get to see much of the overall hometown since the story mainly takes place at school and specific places at the outskirts of the town. Taking this into consideration, the director has to reflect the intensity of the moment and send shivers down your spine by using the space and places that are being offered and use them wisely through angles and perspectives even at the same scene to reflect the distance and the point of view from various aspects of the given limited territory. Although the horizon broadens whenever required and we get to witness the school yard and some beautiful landscapes around the main character, In Su, especially when he shares his delightful moments with his female ghost friend. The power of effects that are being used doesn’t exaggerate, they are definitely important and of vital importance when the scene asks for it, they are apparent and spot on, but the film doesn’t rely its haunting aesthetic and suspense on the effects factor. It’s all about its dark ambiance and eloquent yet violent gloom alongside the sharp and abrupt scenes that raise instantly your blood artery’s pressure.
Scriptwriter Lee Jong Ho within almost an hour and thirty minutes presents a strong scenario with various side-stories going on. He was brave enough to depict a broad world among the living and the world of spirits within a limited time frame and he utilized wisely every second of Mourning Grave. We get to know all the characters partaking in the movie and most importantly the reasons behind their actions. For every question that rises while watching, the right time will come for you to receive an answer. Everything flows naturally and Mourning Grave doesn’t get the abhorrent chance to tire you, on the contrary, it keeps the interest at high levels and makes you eager to find out what’s going to happen next. The blending of scenes and side-stories works just fine and the story doesn’t fall in repetitive loops or useless information. It is magnificent and worth-mentioning that Mourning Grave even though it may appear just like another horror film, it’s much more than that. And that was a really pleasant surprise to me. I’m referring to In Su and his ghost friend, it felt like romance between the world of the living and the world of spirits! There was a mutual affection and gentleness between the two figures and i kindly cherished this platonic ghastly romance that was totally unexpected to my eyes. Apart from the horror and romantic factors, here are moments of humor as well, but what’s more important is the fact that there’s meaning behind Mourning Grave. School bullying should be vanished from the surface of the earth and Jong Ho ahjussi reflects his thoughts on the subject, always within the barriers of a horror film.
Kang Ha Neul (In Su) shines through his role, he depicts really well the quiet student who sees ghosts and gets bullied from time to time, but also finds comfort through painting and when the time comes he stands in front of his bullied classmates, even though he can’t support it physically. Kim So Eun was brilliant as well, as the ghost girl she makes the aura more blooming around In Su’s world and her story has much more depth than one would expect as the storyline processes. Uncle Sun Il, Kim Jung Tae, is an agoraphobic figure that stays all day at home and interacts with ghosts in his very own safe heaven, an interesting figure nevertheless! And here comes the brotherhood of bullies with the two main figures being Park Doo Sik as Hae Chul and Han Hye Rin as Hyun Ji. Their minions are Ki Tae, Na Ra and Sung Hee. From time to time their bullying target changes. I’ll make a special reference to Doo Sik, lately i find him everywhere! He was in I Hear Your Voice, in Emergency Couple, in My Lovely Girl and now i found him on Mourning Grave! And for some reason he always lives up to my expectations, he’s definitely into bullying, seemingly devious but definitely imbecile roles, but also he’s into featherbrained but kindhearted roles as well and he’s doing more than fine. Even the teacher, the rest of the classmates and the parents that appear from time to time are into their roles, they’re secondary supporting roles, but they definitely serve well their limited time on screen and that’s more than welcome.
In the end, Mourning Grave felt like a puzzle of various emotions that were magically placed together on the same canvas and through their brave interaction they conquer you in their own way. Such films are a pleasant surprise and their multifaceted personality, if it’s been built wisely, shines even with the darkest of colors. If you’ve watched it, how did you find it? As for you that haven’t watched Mourning Grave yet, would you like to find what lies underneath the mask? Is it the only mask? What’s the reason behind a spirit’s cry for revenge? How many have to face the relentless scythe of death until the grudge lies broken? Will it be possible? Does it ever end? Did you ever consider split personality disorder? These are a few of many questions that lie ahead and you’ll have to find out the answers on your own simply by making Mourning Grave part of your precious nighttime!