Whispering Corridors 2: Memento Mori

Whispering Corridors 2: Memento Mori51uIhrUtruL
Released: 1999
Director: Tae-yong Kim, Kyu-dong Min

The Whispering Corridors film series is an interesting beast to tackle. None of the films explicitly tie together; they are more spiritual sequels than anything, sharing similar themes and settings with each other. All of the films take place in Korean girls’ schools, and all share elements of tragedy, social alienation, and of course, ghostly apparitions.

The second film in the series, Memento Mori, is probably my favorite of the lot. Expanding on these common themes, it explores the entanglement of two school girls, their relationship, and the effects it has on each other and their peer group. This entry in the series is particularly unique in its direct examination of a lesbian relationship between students, and the sexual exploitation of students by authority figures.

Told in a non-linear fashion, the story revolves primarily around a diary, kept by students Hyo-shin and Shi-eun. The diary is frequently seen in the possession of another fellow classmate, Min-ah, who has an unusual fixation on the two girls. As the story unfolds, we learn about the romantic relationship between Hyo-shin and Shi-eun, which causes the girls to be socially rejected by their peers. This, plus the reveal of a sexual tryst between Hyo-shin and her teacher, Mr. Goh, and Hyo-shin’s increasingly needy and obsessive behavior, causes Shi-eun to pull away.

In conjunction to all of this, we also see much of Min-ah’s point of view, and she is often the voyeur through which the audience views a lot of the relationship, as well as the gossip and criticisms aimed at the girls behind their backs. It is implied, though not directly stated, that Min-ah’s fixation on Shi-eun and Hyo-shin may be caused by her own potential feelings for Shi-eun.

After Hyo-shin commits suicide by throwing herself off of the roof of the school, Min-ah begins to see her everywhere, haunted by her memory, and the secrets she gained knowledge of. Ultimately Hyo-shin’s spirit becomes known to all the students at the school, as she spreads the pain and confusion she felt to all of her fellow classmates. Her haunting is vengeant, but not particularly violent, making it seem as though the emotional distress is the point. However, the ambiguous final lines exchanged between Shi-eun and Min-ah do leave other interpretations open for Hyo-shin’s ultimate goal.

I hesitate to call this movie a horror, per se. Is it frightening? While there is a haunting involved in the plot, that aspect isn’t particularly scary. It is more the circumstances that cause the death and subsequent haunting that are unsettling: teachers sexually abusing students, as well as the homophobia and pressure of a restrictive society that follows the characters around.

This not a movie to put on in the background and chat with friends while watching, it is one that asks for attention and patience from a viewer. There are lines that seem fleeting, but cause ripples throughout the movie, and scenes of such surreal beauty that they are difficult to forget. It is a moody, atmospheric piece with a deep sadness to it that will haunt you much longer than the ghostly apparition it hosts.


Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars

Scariness level: Low if we are talking ghosts/monsters. High if we are talking about real life tragedy.

Violence level: Low. Direct images of a suicide (including a first person POV scene), so if this is triggering, be wary.

Bechdel test: Almost all of the characters are women, and the primary relationship is between two women. So that is a definite pass.

Posted on February 17, 2015, in Films and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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