This grotesque fairy tale is really a ghost story in disguise, a red herring, but underneath it is something much more twisted and sick – the strong love between a mother and her daughter. Almost as a bonus, the film happily skews the current beauty craze in South Korea with very bad things happening to young school girls who go in for plastic surgery. These are privileged spoiled frivolous girls who are never satisfied with the way they look. In one lovely scene two of them have gone around the bend and sit facing each other in art class.

“Make your lips fatter”
“Lower your cheekbones”
“Deepen the eyelids”
“Make your eyes bigger”
“Chisel your jaw a bit”

And then proceed to use sharp knives on each other to do this.

These girls are school friends of Hyun-su (Shin Se-kyung), whose mother, Yoon-hee (Do Ji Won) was their very accomplished plastic surgeon. Yoon-hee dearly loves her daughter and has brought up her up single-handedly since the father left years previously. They live in a lovely home that doubles as her office – with a mysterious creepy basement that is strictly off limits to Hyun-su. In an early very effective scene, Sukyong is having her face redone and as she slowly succumbs to the anesthesia she thinks she sees something with long black hair slither across the floor – her bulging eyes registering her fright in fearsome detail. Soon after the surgery Sukyong begins having hallucinations and screams out “This isn’t my face” to a hidden voice that whispers to her “I’ll make you pretty”.

Hyun-su begins to suspect that something is very wrong – why are these bad things happening to her friends – why doesn’t mom have any pictures of her as a little girl – and just why isn’t she allowed in the basement – all leading her to discover things that would best have been allowed to remain in peace. It all becomes wonderfully absurd and gothic as family secrets and madness creep out of their little dark hiding places. Bong Man-dae previously directed Sweet Sex and Love - an erotic sexual odyssey of a couple that honestly bored me to death – but this (his second) film is a very different take on the theme of love and what can go wrong. Like many of the melodramatic Korean horror films, this one is nearly bereft of scares but there is plenty of pathos and atmosphere to go around and it quite caught me up in its ludicrous but tragic story.

My rating for this film: 7.0


Reviewed: 03/07