Film / Memento Mori

“The first kiss, like the smell of apples? On your lips I've smelled the blood, that touches my tongue. .”

Memento Mori is a 1999 Korean horror film directed by Kim Tae-yong and Min Kyu-dong. While officially a sequel of Whispering Corridors, it's actually more of a Spiritual Successor. It tells the story of two schoolgirls, Hyo-shin and Shi-eun whose intense friendship eventually blossomed into a lesbian relationship. The plot is set into motion when their joint diary is found by another student, Min-ah. Early on in the film, Hyo-shin commits suicide and strange events begin to occur, all seemingly related to the mysterious diary.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: All the adults are malicious, apathetic, or broken.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Hyo-shin, especially in the flashbacks. She was already an outcast beforehand because of her withdrawn behavior. Her lesbianism only added fuel to the fire.
  • Alpha Bitch: Yeon-an has elements of this trope, particularly she since seems to be the one who bullies Hyo-shin the most.
  • But Not Too Gay: Hyo-shin and Shi-eun kiss onscreen, but scenes that implied a more intimate relationship between the two of them were cut, such as a scene where the two of them bathe together.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early on, Hyo-shin tells Shi-eun that what bothers her most about dying is that no one would remember her. The line seems like casual conversation at the time, but in hindsight, it nearly explains almost all of Hyo-shin's actions.
  • Cool Teacher: At first it seems Mr. Goh is one of these though it's eventually revealed that he's an unstable and unhappy person who was having an affair with one of his students.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: It's implied that Min-ah is attracted to Shi-eun. Yeon-an even points it out.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: As rude and obnoxious as Yeon-an is after Hyo-shin's suicide, she does have a point about how hypocritical it is that some of the girls are acting like Hyo-shin was their friend when they actually bullied and shunned her when she was alive.
  • Lap Pillow: Hyo-shin and Shi-eun do this in a flashback.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Hyo-shin was Mr. Goh's Living Emotional Crutch and she used Shi-eun as her own Living Emotional Crutch. Understandably, it ended badly.
  • Magic Realism: Most of the supernatural elements fall into this trope.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: A possible interpretation is that all the supernatural events in the film are nothing but manifestations of the characters' guilt.
  • Non-P.O.V. Protagonist: Shi-eun and Hyo-shin are the real main characters, but we see them mostly through Min-ah's eyes.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Of "Memento Mori" and "Kyrie Eleison." Both work as a Bilingual Bonus: Memento Mori means "Remember that you will die" while Kyrie Eleison means "Lord, have mercy" and is often included as part of the Roman Catholic funeral mass.note 
  • Pity Sex: This is evidently how Hyo-shin's relationship with Mr. Goh began.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Deconstructed. Hyo-shin's clinginess and instability are quite clearly the result of bullying (at first because of her withdrawn personality and then, because of her sexual orientation) and being sexually exploited by her (male) teacher. By the end of the film, it's clear that Shi-eun deeply regrets that she broke with up Hyo-shin so she wouldn't become a target for the other students' bullying as well. Furthermore, Hyo-shin's acts of vengeance at are not aimed at her ex-girlfriend, but at the other students and Mr. Goh.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Hyo-shin and Shi-eun's relationship appears to have started this way.
  • Sadist Teacher: The unnamed biology teacher, and how. He threatens to strike Ji-won with a ruler and, in a flashback, slaps Shi-eun so hard that it gives her a split lip.
  • Secret Relationship: Hyo-shin and Shi-eun, technically, though pretty much everyone suspected something was up before they attempted to "come out." Also, Hyo-shin and Mr. Goh, though it's not kept secret for much longer.
  • Sucky School: The teachers are cruel or apathetic and most of the students are immature and mean-sprited.
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: Both Hyo-shin and Shi-eun can be cold and brusque to others (and sometimes to each other), but both have softer sides.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: It's suggested that Shi-eun might have killed Hyo-shin, but it turns out it was suicide after all.
  • Suicide Pact: Hyo-shin and Shi-eun. They don't go through with it.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Most of the students have a crush on their handsome teacher Mr. Goh. Taken further when it's revealed that, he was having an affair with Hyo-shin. Their relationship is certainly not portrayed as remotely romantic, however: Mr. Goh is a weak, unhappy, and needy person who is using Hyo-shin as his Living Emotional Crutch. Hyo-shin, for her part, does not love him and appears to have only started sleeping with him out of pity. She also clearly starts to crack from the strain of a relationship that's fundamentally exploitative and unhealthy.
  • Teen Pregnancy: As the result of a Teacher/Student Romance, no less.
  • Together in Death: Hyo-shin and Shi-eun, if you believe that Shi-eun killed herself at the end of the movie.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Min-ah throwing up something that may or may not be poison.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Ji-won does this to Mr. Goh after correctly figuring out that a) Hyo-shin committed suicide partially because she was pregnant and b) he was the father.