I've always said that Eastern cultures are afraid of different things than Western cultures. Rarely in the East will you find movies on serial killers or slashers or monsters like Freddy Kruger. In the East, they are afraid of angering their ancestors or vengeful ghosts or spirits becoming attached to them like an extra shadow or something. I don't pretend to understand it, but I try to watch a few here and there. With uneven English subtitles and rituals and customs that are unfamiliar, I can only watch when I've got half a brain to concentrate with, because unlike a lot of stupid horror movies you can't just watch with one eye and do something else - it takes full concentration.
This is sort of an anthology in that there are several stories within the main story, but since they are sort of intertwined with characters appearing in more than one story it was really hard to keep it all straight. I don't promise that I really got the complete gist of this, but it was interesting all the same. The photography was gorgeous, the soundtrack was very pleasant and the scenes were set up very well. Now if I spoke Korean I would really have enjoyed the subtleties of this film.
We start with an older doctor named Jung Nam who's given a photo album from a hospital that's about to be torn down. He realizes it's the album he put together when he was a young doctor at the hospital in 1942, just after Pearl Harbor. I wondered why there were a lot of Japanese in the movie so I had to look it up. During WWII Japan led Korea by colonial rule - exploitation of a weaker country by a stronger country. And here is basically the stories they put together:
Jung Nam, a student, becomes obsessed with the corpse of a young woman who was found drowned in the icy river. Then they start the second tale: A young girl called Asako is brought into the hospital after a car crash which claimed the life of her mother. The mother haunts her and scares her to death. See, that's what I don't understand about the Eastern thing. Why would you have to be afraid of your mother? The final tale is the case of a murdered Japanese soldier which is being investigated by doctors In Young and her husband Dong Won. The husband is beginning to suspect his wife of the crime because he notices she has no shadow. Again, didn't understand the significance of that, but did appreciate how they did the special effects, low key but very effective. And this is also why even though I paid strict attention to this movie, I got lost a lot because these three stories kept crossing over each other, certain scenes repeated themselves without explanation and the whole thing was just... yeah.
All I could tell for sure was that in the case of the frozen girl the student is obsessed with her because he keeps having visions of her alive - even a vision of a whole life with her (a very rich and beautiful sequence actually) until he comes to and realizes he's naked with a corpse covered in snails and leaking rancid water. Ick. The punchline, so to speak, is that the mother of the dead girl 'married' her daughter's dead spirit to the live student's body to keep her soul away from the man who caused her death. That's what they said, honest.
The young girl haunted by her mother is the result of her mother marrying a man whom the young girl also fancies (she's about 10 so it's a crush) and she has determined that her new 'dad' should love her like he loves her mother. While driving they argue and in a fit she grabs the steering wheel and causes them to crash, killing all but the girl who doesn't even get a scratch. When the girl comes out of her catatonic state and tells the doctor the whole story, the haunting stops. And so does the girl's heart. Why did she die? Dunno. And the doctor that treated her gets hit by a car right afterward and sees her as he dies. Huh?
The murdered soldier that the doc figured his wife did 'cause she had no shadow? At the beginning they had shown a film of brain surgery being performed on a Japanese General Hirai by both husband and wife. After the surgery when the General woke up he wasn't quite all there and grabbed a scalpel and killed the wife. The husband had been living with her 'memory' for a year. Ah but wait, there's more. We now know why a Japanese person was targeted (revenge) but hey - it wasn't the wife who was killed but the husband. His wife has been living a year as her husband. Confused? Yeah, don't blame you.
But they really tried, and there are spooky moments galore and it was well made so if you want to try to make more sense of it than I did, give it a try - you might like it.