[DVD REVIEWS]Ghost stories without any white sheets

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[DVD REVIEWS]Ghost stories without any white sheets

Two of the most notable horror movies released in Korea recently are in many ways not horror films at all. But their dark, moody styles and creative stories are definitely worth a viewing.

"Sorum" (2001)

Directed by Yoon Jong-chang. Starring Kim Myeong-min, Jang Jin-young and Gi Ju-bong.

One of the most atmospheric horror films ever made in Korea was last year's "Sorum." Yong-hyeon (Kim), a 30-year-old taxi driver, moves into an old, run-down apartment building. The only things more squalid and grimy than the apartments are the lives of its tenants.

There is Sun-young (Jang), a young woman in an extremely abusive relationship, haunted by the memories of her dead son. Lee Jak-gi (Gi) is a failed publisher and writer, trying to create a ghost story based on all the terrible things that have happened in that apartment building. Eun-soo lost her boyfriend a year before and still has not recovered.

Thirty years earlier, a baby died in a fire in room No. 504. One year ago, an aspiring writer (and Eun-soo's boyfriend) also burned to death in that room. Now Yong-hyeon lives there.

Yong-hyeon and Sun-young start seeing each other, forming a strange bond based more on need and emptiness than love or affection.

But the apartment building is the real star of "Sorum." The dilapidated structure, with its peeling paint, rotten floors and garbage strewn all over, is beautifully wretched.

This is also one of the few DVDs that takes advantage of the format. In addition to the usual goodies (cast biographies, movie trailers), you also get an audio track of the director's commentary on the film (only in Korean, unfortunately) and three short films that Yoon made while in film school; all three films are in English.

"Memento Mori" (1999)

Co-directed by Kim Tae-yong and Min Gyu-dong. Starring Kim Min-sun, Park Yeh-jin and Lee Young-jin.

One of the most popular horror films of the past few years was "Yeogo Gwoedam" ("Whispering Corridors"), about a ghost haunting a girl's high school. Officially, "Memento Mori" was "Yeogo Gwoedam 2," but it is a sequel in name only - the director, actors, story and style of the two films are completely different.

One day Min-ah (Kim) discovers the shared diary of two girls from her school - Hyo-shin and Shi-eun, two outcasts who were once close but are now no longer speaking. Their diary is elaborately designed and decorated, full of tricks and presents.

Then one of the girls commits suicide. Gossip sweeps the school - she was pregnant, she was a lesbian, she was not alone. Strange visions and other happenings begin to arise.

Like "Sorum," this is not your typical slasher flick or tired ghost story. The atmosphere is thick, revealing the tough classroom politics of a girl's high school and the pain of being different from the others.

by Mark Russell

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