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Film / Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait

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Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait is a 2007 Korean horror movie, set primarily in Vietnam. It was directed by Tae-kyeong Kim.

The film tells the story of Yun-hee, a writer from South Korea who travels to Vietnam in order to research a local legend for her next book. However, there is a slight problem: In order to research the legend, Yun-hee has to reunite with her old friend Seo-yeon. In her first book, Yun-hee based a character off of Seo-yeon, portraying her as a less than ideal character, based on rumors that had forced Seo-yeon to leave South Korea. Yun-hee fears that Seo-yeon would have read the book by now, and dreads their reunion.

Upon arriving in Vietnam, however, Seo-yeon doesn't seem to have read the book. The two reunite, and Seo-yeon helps Yun-hee research the legend of Muoi. According to the legend of the local village, Muoi was a woman who fell for a painter named Nguyen. However, Nguyen was engaged, and his jealous fiancee attacked and burned Muoi's face. In revenge, Muoi hung herself, becoming an angry ghost who terrorized the woman who hurt her, before eventually being sealed in Nguyen's painting by monks. However, the legend of her curse persisted throughout the village, and is said to occur every fifteenth day of the lunar month.


As Yun-hee begins to delve more into Muoi's legend, she begins to notice signs of the curse occuring around her. Even more alarming is how Seo-yeon seems to be up to something...

This film contains examples of:

  • Asshole Victim
  • Best Served Cold: Seo-yeon waits three years to exact her revenge on Yun-hee and her former friends.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Seo-yeon.
  • Demonic Possession: In order for Muoi to carry out her curse, she requires a human body. At the film's end, she possesses Yun-hee.
  • Easily Forgiven: Averted. Seo-yeon's last words before she dies are that she could never really forgive Yun-hee, or the others who harmed her.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: A major theme in the movie. Muoi, who is initially said to have been a girl born with supernatural power, is later shown to have grown up as a normal, if somewhat poor, woman. This figures into Seo-yeon's rant to Yun-hee later in the film, where she says that Muoi wasn't born a ghost; rather, it was her mistreatment from others that caused her to become the vengeful spirit she now was. Additionally, this trope also applies to Seo-yeon, who went through a similar experience as Muoi.
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  • Haunted House: Seo-yeon's home in Vietnam, mainly because Seo-yeon evoked Muoi and had her portrait moved into a hidden room near where Yun-hee slept.
  • Muse Abuse: What kicks off a lot of the film's events. In her first book, Yun-hee wrote a character based on Seo-yeon, portraying her in a very negative way. It turns out the information she used was based off of rumors, and these events inspire Seo-yeon to seek out Muoi's legend in order to exact revenge on those who wronged her. Judging from what we see in the film, Yun-hee appears to be a Type A; she hasn't written for three years, and is under pressure from her editor to think up something.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Seo-yeon has shades of this, whether its informing Yun-hee that they're spending the night in a haunted hotel, or joking about Yun-hee being cursed by Muoi. That last part isn't just a joke, though.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Muoi's vengeful spirit was sealed into Nguyen's painting of her by monks, with a wooden stake in the portrait's heart. It was kept that way until Japanese soldiers in World War II raided the temple and removed the seal, setting her free again.
  • Spooky Painting
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Naturally.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Seo-yeon starts cutting strands of Yun-hee's hair while the latter is tied to her bed. This turns out to be a nightmare of Yun-hee's, but it does begin to signal that Seo-yeon isn't all she appears to be.
  • The Un-Reveal: At various points in the movie, an old lady appears, warning people about Muoi's curse. We never learn who she really is.
  • Wham Line: After Yun-hee stabs Seo-yeon, who has become Muoi's new host:
    Seo-yeon: (laughing) "Thank you; my death will begin the curse."
  • Woman Scorned: Muoi, and Seo-yeon.


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