Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait (2007)

Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait (Review)
Kim Tae-kyeong/Jo An/2007
Where to watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...great suspense and tension, some shocking jump-scares, and very disturbing visuals."

Yoon-hee (Jo An) is a South Korean writer who hasn't had a published book in three years. Pressured by her editor and struggling to write, Yoon-hee visits her estranged friend, Seo-yeon (Cha Ye-ryun) in Vietnam to study a folklore legend about a girl, Muoi, and her haunted portrait...

Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait is a traditional ghost-revenge film. The story follows Yoon-hee as she learns about Muoi, while trying to repair her estranged relationship with Seo-yeon – apparently, Yoo-hee's previous book did not sit well with Seo-yeon. Anyway, Muoi is a grudged ghost with a tormented past, and her portrait, drawn by her lover, is said to be haunted. As Yoon-hee gets deeper, she experiences more haunting and disturbing visions. Eventually, Yoon-hee must break the grudge to save herself. The ending feels a bit rushed and compressed as it happens so fast, but it was actually a great finale.

Muoi is an atmospheric, slow-burn horror film. You've seen this type of story before if you've ever seen any other Asian ghost films – or, at least if you've seen the popular films like The Grudge. And, that's exactly what this is: a grudged ghost looking for revenge. The portrait is used well to create some originality, but it doesn't stray far from the well known black-haired, white nightgown ghost story. The horror consists of great suspense and tension, some shocking jump-scares, and very disturbing visuals. I thought it was a scary film, although a bit inconsistent. Sometimes the film just moved too slow for its own good. And, the film feels a bit uneventful at times, partly due to the pacing dragging out certain scenes.

Jo An is great as the lead, a very controlled and believable performances Рdoesn't hit too high or too low. Generally, the entire cast was impressive with some great performances. The special effects were great; the camerawork really helped create some startling scares, and the makeup really create some cringe-worthy scenes. The music was haunting, a very ominous score that helps create the suspense and atmosphere. The English subtitles in the Amazon Prime stream are nearly perfect Рa misspelling here and there, but never detrimental to the experience. Director Kim Tae-kyeong does a great job in building suspense and terror, but the story was a bit clich̩ and it did feel like Tae-kyeong played it safe for the most part.

Overall, Muoi: The Legend of the Portrait is a great horror film. The story isn't all too original, so if you've seen many Asian horror films recently, this one will probably burn you out. The story also moves too slow at times. But, it delivers the horror – through atmosphere, suspense, visuals, and jump-scares – and I'm a sucker for folklore like this.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some gore. Rape is implied, but not graphically shown.

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