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Film / Memento Mori

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"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:

  • A-Cup Angst: Ji-won, a friend of Min-ah, constantly laments the small size of her breasts.
  • Adults Are Useless: All the adults are malicious, apathetic, or broken and, thus, do nothing to help the teenage girls they're supposed to protect.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Hyo-shin is subjected to this, especially in the flashbacks. She was already an outcast beforehand because of her withdrawn behavior and her lesbianism only added fuel to the fire.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.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Hyo-shin is as quiet as they come, but harbors a desire for revenge against her horrible, bullying classmates.
  • Bifauxnen: Shi-eun and Ji-won are both female, but due to their short hair and small busts, they could easily pass for effeminate teenage boys.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Hyo-shin is dead, but she and Shi-eun appear to have reconciled from beyond the grave and all the horrible students who were nasty to Hyo-shin have probably been traumatized for life and will never forget her.
  • Broken Bird: Hyo-shin, who is shunned for being a nerd, has a cynical, world-weary attitude despite only being in her teens.
  • Bury Your Gays: Hyo-shin, either a lesbian or bisexual, kills herself about halfway through the film.
  • Butch Lesbian: Shi-eun, as she has short hair and runs track.
  • 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.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Hyo-shin toward Shi-eun. In one flashback, she freaks out at Shi-eun for not calling her all weekend and grabs her cellphone to scroll through it.
  • 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.
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Hyo-shin, after she returns from the dead in the last act of the film.
  • Driven to Suicide: Hyo-shin as well as Mr. Goh and possibly Shi-eun.
  • Elegant Classical Musician: Hyo-shin is a classical pianist.
  • Executive Meddling: The whole ghost angle was shoe-horned in on the request of the producers.
  • Flashback: Most of the film is told through them, though it can be hard to tell. The main indication of us being in a flashback is that the students are wearing their winter uniforms.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Min-ah is the film equivalent of this trope. Most of the story is told through her eyes, even though she is not the main character.
  • Genki Girl: Ji-won,a friend of Min-ah, is excitable and full of mischief.
  • Hallucinations: Maybe. Min-ah starts seeing Hyo-shin while reading her diary, even after Hyo-shin's suicide and the film is ambiguous about there are hallucinations or Hyo-shin's ghost.
  • High School: Set in a South Korean high school.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: It's implied that Min-ah is attracted to Shi-eun. Yeon-an even points it out.
  • Hot Teacher: All of the students at Whispering Corridors are madly in love with the handsome Mr. Goh.
  • Jerkass: Yeon-an, one of Min-ah's friends, enjoys bullying Hyo-shin and is also prone to whining and complaining about everything. It's cemented when she complains how inconvenient Hyo-shin's suicide is for her after the fact.
  • 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.
  • Lesbian Jock: Shi-eun is a track star, and a lesbian.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Hyo-shin, who is much more traditionally feminine than her lover, Shi-eun.
  • 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.
  • Mindlink Mates: Hyo-shin and Shi-eun can apparently talk to each other telepathically. It's one of the many elements of Magic Realism in the film.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Hyo-shin shows some signs of being one, as she writes morbid poetry about death and murder and talks constantly about suicide.
  • 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 
  • One-Gender School: Whispering Corridors is an all-girls school.
  • Ordinary High-School Student: All of the main characters are teenage girls at a private high school.
  • 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 are not aimed at her ex-girlfriend, but at the other students and Mr. Goh.
  • Queer Romance: The emotional core of the film rests on the lesbian relationship between Hyo-shin and Shi-eun.
  • 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 Diary: Min-ah's discovery of Hyo-shin and Shi-eun's secret shared diary sets the film into motion
  • 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.
  • Shrinking Violet: Hyo-shin is a shy and withdrawn girl who doesn't have any friends.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead: Yeon-an does this repeatedly after Hyo-shin's death.
  • Spurned into Suicide: Hyo-shin partially commits suicide because of Shi-eun's breakups with her once and for all. But there's other reasons as well.
  • Stepford Smiler: Mr. Goh is type A: he seems like a Cool Teacher, but is actually extremely depressed because all his students are immature and his colleagues are materialistic and shallow.
  • Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics: In the flashbacks, Hyo-shin is shunned, has rumors spread about her, and has things thrown at her.
  • Sucky School: The teachers are cruel or apathetic and most of the students are immature and mean-spirited.
  • 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.
  • Teens Are Monsters: They bully, exclude those they don't like, act immaturely, and physically assault each other.
  • Together in Death: Hyo-shin and Shi-eun, if you believe that Shi-eun killed herself at the end of the movie.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Shi-eun, who runs track, is the tomboy and Hyo-shin, the classical pianist, is the Girly Girl.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Yeon-an and Ji-won, who constantly make fun of each other. Ji-won constantly teases Yeon-an about her weight while Yeon-an mocks Ji-won's small bust size.
  • 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.