There’s a reason America never picked up Memento Mori and remade it: it sucked. I find it mildly insulting that the “Ghost School Trilogy” would consider this a part of its legacy. While Wishing Stairs was easily bearable and likeable, Memento Mori ends up being more of a female-oriented drama instead of a ghost story.
After Min-ah (Min-sun Kim) finds the diary of a girl who recently committed suicide at her school, strange things begin to happen. She begins to hallucinate and see the dead girl at every turn. But the question is constantly begged of whether these are just mere hallucinations or if the dead girl is really haunting the school.
Well, that’s at least part of the story. Most of Memento Mori is a jumbled mess of past and present situations laced together with heavily female dramas. The big deal behind everything is the lesbian relationship between two students. The girls are heavily in love, and their acting is quite convincing, but eventually the movie takes their issues to ridiculous levels, one of which ends in them literally crying over spilled milk. There comes a point early on where we feel their relationship is more authentically pathetic than tragically dramatic.
The diary is a piece of oddness in itself. Its elaborateness is the only drive behind the story, and I have to admit I enjoyed watching what came out of the diary next. But the entire thing felt like a planned suicide that was all too calculated. It’s as if the girl stepped off the roof and said, “Boy, I can’t wait till this is found so some minor, eerie hell can be raised.” It becomes more of an eye-roller as it goes along, regardless of how cool the diary may actually be.
The ghost story isn’t even that necessary within Memento Mori either. If one were to cut all of the ghost bullshit and just leave in the lesbian relationship, the movie would still be a good hour and ten minutes. It would also probably be a little less bearable though. Again, the massive fixation on this is a major turn off.
As far as Asian cinema goes, skip on this one. It’s less than mediocre and a bit of a thorn in the side of Asian cinema history. I still have yet to see Whispering Corridors, the remaining addition to the Ghost School series, so hopefully, that one is better. Also, while I still have the opportunity to get on my bitching high horse, Memento Mori is, according to this film, meant to translate into “remember the dead.” I am here to say that this translation is not necessarily true. The true meaning of the phrase is Latin and means to remember with each waking moment you are mortal, and every passing second is irrevocable. Take the Latin definition into consideration before letting this touch your DVD player.
Read A.J. Hakari’s Memento Mori review here.