Reel Asian 2014: Mourning Grave
In-su (Kang Ha-neul) has a knack for seeing ghosts, a talent that he opts to keep a secret from his peers. After living abroad, In-su returns to his hometown of Seoul to both seek advice from his uncle Sun-il (Kim Jung-tae), who also has this ability to see the paranormal, on how to deal with this gift and attend school. Though his uncle believes that if In-su ignores the spirits they will leave him alone, this is a task easier said than done. Complicating things further for In-su is the fact that he is finding it difficult to adapt to life at school.
As powerful clique, lead by Hyun-ji (Han Hye-rin) and her boyfriend Hae-chul (Park Doo-sik), terrorizes his class, In-su takes solace in a mysterious girl (Kim So-eun) whose company he begins to keep. As a budding romance between In-su and the girl ensues, rumours begin to swirl around the school as members of the clique begin to disappear one by one. With rumours spreading across the school of a ghostly killer, known as The Mask, preying on students, In-su finds himself inadvertently trying to solve the mystery before he becomes the next victim.
Director Oh In-Chun delivers a horror film for those that prefer subtle scares. Mourning Grave has its bumps and jolts, but never becomes overly graphic. A bloody palm striking a window is about as macabre as it gets. Instead, the film focuses on the evils of bullying, especially in regards to those who opt to ignore the problem rather than take a stand. In Oh In-Chun’s eyes, those who are complacent to sit idly by are just as guilty as those who do the bullying themselves.
Kang Ha-neul is very strong in the lead role of In-Su. Factoring in almost every frame of the film, he shows a wide range playing someone who is both meek in the face of the clique and courageous when his life is on the line. Kim So-eun is equally good as the female student who captures In-su’s heart. She provides the film with a nice touch of both tenderness and comedy. Speaking of comedy, Kim Jung-tae is excellent in the comic relief role of In-su’s agoraphobic Uncle.
Oh In-Chun hit his mark with Mourning Grave. He creates a genre film that is not too violent, but still gets its anti-bullying message across in a way that is accessible to audiences. Mourning Grave is wittier and muter than expected. It’s a film that I can recommend.