Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
Jeong Beom-sik, Jeong Sik
What's it about
A Korean genre effort featuring three interconnected love stories, told in more of a Japanese ghost story fashion, set at a hospital during World War II.
Is it good movie?
My review for this film is going to be slightly disjointed, because I am hopeless when it comes to character names in films when I understand the language, let alone when it is foreign. And unfortunately IMDb is no help, as it lists the cast, but not who they played in the film. So you will have to excuse me when I say, ďand then the one dude did this, and the other chick said that.Ē
So, I wanted to like this movie. I am a huge Chan-Wook Park fan, and as such had big expectations for a Korean horror effort. Alas, I came away disappointed. It is not so much that it is a bad movie, but that it is one suffering from terrible editing. The film starts strong with (fake) archival footage of a Japanese general undergoing brain surgery in the early 40ís, and then flashes forward to a college professor in 1979 lecturing about the case. He then goes home and, through a conversation with his daughter, we learn that not only did her mother die during child birth, but that the professorís second wife died shortly after they were married. As soon as the daughter leaves, the old man intones, ďThat was the last time I ever saw my daughterĒ, and I got geared up to watch a psychological horror film about how this guy ended up getting cursed.
I didnít get it.
Instead, the film begins all over again, with the younger version of the professor attending medical school. His benefactor is the widow whose daughter he was betrothed to at an early age. We then follow him around as he is a poor student who pukes at autopsies, and we learn that there is a serial killer specializing in Japanese soldiers (the film takes place during Japanís occupation of Korea). But just when the studentís relationship with a female suicide victimís frozen body (and spirit) begins to get juicy, the film makes an abrupt and jarring turn, and becomes about a small girl who is haunted by ghosts at the hospital after being the sole survivor of a car crash that killed her parents. I found this to be infinitely more interesting, so of course it shifts once again and becomes a mindf*ck piece about the husband and wife doctor team who performed the surgery that opens the film.
Epitaph does have some incredibly stark visuals, including several scenes featuring ghosts that kind of spooked me, which is saying something. But they are swaddled in a boring, disconnected narrative. Ultimately all the threads get tied together, but it feels more like an anthology, which is bad for a film that wasnít meant to be one. It also fails to convey the horror of war as a subplot, like was so effectively done by Guillermo Del Toro in Panís Labyrinth. The worst thing to say about a period piece is that it didnít need to be one.
Video / Audio
I watched a screener copy, and there were no specifications. It's widescreen, and looks and sounds good.
Once again, this was a screener copy, so no special features. But I have it on good authority that there will be: Audio Commentary, Interviews, Deleted Scenes, Making Of, and a Theatrical Trailer.
Epitaph is a film that is beautifully shot, and has a lot of good ideas, but just fails to connect them properly. Some clever editing, interweaving the stories more tightly instead of letting them play out largely on their own could possibly have saved it, but it is what it is. Watch it for the distinctly lush visuals that are a trademark of Korean cinema, and for the occasionally terrifying ghost scenes, but be prepared to lament all that it could have been but was not.