Friday, 24 April 2015

April Apparitions: Muoi: The Legend of a Portait (2007)

Muoi: The Legend of a Portait (2007)
Director: Tae-kyeong Kim
Starring:  Anh Thu, Anh-Thu, and Ye-ryeon Cha
Running Time: 93 min

  Since I love when weird things get possessed, like bulldozers, fridges and elevators, how could I resist a bewitched painting?   Immediately, I thought this was going to be a take on the Dorian Gray story but scanning over the description this sounds like a straight up ghost story to me.  I've always wanted someone to  make an evil etch-a-sketch movie but for now, I will have to accept a painting.

  Yun-hee hasn't published a book in three years and her publishers are on her heels because she contractually owes them two more books or she will have to return all the advance money.  Soooo, she gets in contact with an old friend, Seo-yeon, who is now living in Vietnam and Seo-yeon tells her about this fascinating ghost legend about a woman named Muoi.  Thinking this would make a great book, she asks Seo-yeon if she can stay at her place and research this legend, which Seo-yeon is more than happy to oblige.  Before she leaves, she has drinks with Seo-yeon old boyfriend, Ji-hoon and his bitchy girlfriend to see if she can borrow their good camera to take pictures for her book.   The girlfriend asks Yun-hee if Seo-yeon has read Yun-hee's last book which was loosely centered around Seo-yeon and Ji-hoon break up and if she had, why would she be okay with her staying there.  Yun-hee tells them that the book had a very limited distribution and Seo-yeon probably hasn't read it and if she had, she must have forgiven her for it.  Yun-hee  grabs the camera and heads over to Vietnam.
  When Yun-hee arrives she is greeted by Seo-yeon and they have some pleasant chit chat, but then they get down to the story of Muoi right away.  On the way to Seo-yeon place, she explains that Muoi wasn't liked as a child because people thought she was cursed but eventually when she grew older and painter fell in love with her, unfortunately, this painter already had a fiance.  When they arrive at Seo-yeon place and she promises to tell Yun-hee more about the Muoi legend after she gets unpacked.  So Yun-hee goes to her room and not only finds a nice room but she thinks she sees some hideous ghosts in there as well!  She nearly screams but Seo-yeon knocks on her door and Yun-hee thinks that it might be her imagination.
  Seo-yeon takes Yun-hee to the decrepit old house that Muoi lived and died in.  Seo-yeon explains that once the fiance of the painter found out that Muoi was messing around with her man, she hired some thugs to go with her and rough up Muoi.  The thugs broke her ankles and the fiance poured acid on Muois' beautiful face, so that no one would love her ever again.  Once Muoi ankles were healed, she was so bitter with revenge that she hung herself so she could haunt the painter and his fiance for ever.  Unfortunately, the couple was able to get some help from some local monks and they locked Muois' spirit inside her own painting.  However, after so many years, something happened to the painting and it released the spirit of Muoi.  Legend has it that if you offer it a life, then the ghost of Muoi will take on your revenge task as her own.  Yun-hee is totally creeped out by the story but loves it because she thinks it is going to make such a great book.  She takes some pictures of the decaying house and even a picture of the painting of Muoi that is hanging on the wall.
  That night, Seo-yeon takes Yun-hee out to a club with her girlfriends but after a guy overlooks her for Seo-yeon, Yun-hee just gets drunk and pissy.  By the end of the night, she ends up lashing out at Seo-yeon, saying that dancing with that guy proves that the rumours were true and that she's a stupid ho.  That night, Yun-hee has some horrifying nightmares about being murdered by Seo-yeon but eventually wakes up, just feeling sick and embarrassed for what she said the night before.  Also, going over her pictures, she notices that the picture of the painting she took at Mouis' house is not on her camera and Seo-yeon doesn't even recall even seeing it there.  As time goes on, Yun-hee is seeing more ghosts and learns that Seo-yeon has been harboring some resentment about the book and lets her know the horrifying truth about the break up with Ji-hoon.  Will Yun-hee ever find out why Seo-yeon really brought her here and why she wants to share the story with Muoi with her or has the spirit of Moui trying to silence her to try and keep the legend a secret?    

This was a pretty impressive film and had ton of creepy fun bits in it.  Director/co-writer Tae-kyeong Kim (Don't Click, Dead Friend) and co-writer Zizak create a very cool legend that has the just enough elements to make it sound real and plausible.  I liked how these storytellers paced the telling of the story of Muoi and leaving the audience wanting more & more and in-between the flashbacks, there are still some very terrifying highlights of the ghost.
  I was also pleasantly surprised at how violent some of the scenes were.  In a lot of ghost stories, or at least the ones I've seen lately, the director focuses on atmosphere.  Tae-kyeong Kim does create the right atmosphere at times, but he seems priority seems to be horror violence in the film. There were some good moments that I was actually afraid of what was going to happen next for the character and even had to wince at times during some of the more graphic parts.  I always have a hard time watching when people's ankles are being broken and the foot then lies limp, it creeps me out.  Floopy foot, eeww.
  Besides the good violence in this horror, I was also amazed at how the writers were able to work in some humour here and there.  Sure it is dark humour but Tae-kyeong Kim and Zizak set up some very funny moments in the film that had a similar wit to what Wes Craven did in "Scream" films.

  Although for the most part the film is very good, I though the ending got a little too complicated.  The ending itself is a good concept but if anything, it is too short and it doesn't seem to be as developed as the rest of the story.  I don't know if this was an issue with time or budget but it's a shame that it wasn't stretched out a little further because it seemed tacked on and last minutey.
  Also, the story does tip it's hand a bit and you know where the story is going about half way through.  However, the plot and the visuals are strong enough to keep you watching, even if you have a good idea of what is going to happen eventually.

  Overall, this is a great ghost story and one that you don't want to miss.  It tells a fantastic supernatural story of revenge and offers up some interesting twists.  There are some scenes of bloodshed that I wasn't anticipating and some cruel scenes that made me want to turn away, which is pretty impressive.  So, if you're looking for a good Asian ghost story with a different vibe, then grab this and cover up your paintings.

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