by MEI LING CHEN
A Korean horror movie with a dash of romantic comedy on the side, Mourning Grave is a story of a boy, In-su (Kang Ha-neul), who has the ability to see ghosts. The ghosts often seek him out to relieve their grudges as he has gained a reputation among them as someone who will help. He is picked on by his classmates for seeming odd and seems to have no friends his own age. Finally unable to handle the loneliness, he returns to his hometown to live with his uncle (Kim Jung-tae) who shares his abilities. At the same time a malevolent spirit is attacking the popular kids at the school in his hometown. In-su must come to terms with his power while figuring out who is behind these attacks.
Along the way, In-su meets a young girl (Kim So-eun). We are shown early on that she is a ghost but not much else is known about her. Their relationship is sweet and innocent albeit unconventional, and the film never mocks In-su for falling for a ghost, taking care to treat both their feelings seriously. The ghost girl helps him to overcome his fears and stand up to the bullies that have been making his life miserable. In-su is eventually able to confront his past and realize what made him run away from his home and his powers in the first place. As In-su gains confidence he gets closer to the answer of what’s stalking the halls of his high school. When the final reveal is shown, we realize that the film is actually a critical look at the culture of bullying and indifference in the schools and youths of modern day South Korea.
Director Oh In-chun tells an engaging love story but it’s the horror aspect of which he is even more adept. Oh knows how to build suspense and hold on to tension just a bit longer than the audience expects. The ghosts are unsettling and unnatural and their faces shown just enough to allow our imagination to fill in the gaps. Fans of the horror genre may not find anything new with this film, but it will not disappoint.
In addition to the horror and the romance, Mourning Grave is peppered with bits of humour which makes for a much lighter film than others of the same genre. The mood shifts from scene to scene depending on which element is explored but each piece seems to fit right in with the film. What results is an entertaining film that has a bit of something for everyone.