By Lee Hyo-won
"Beautiful " may be the last word that comes to mind when one thinks of scary movies. But appalling zombies and grotesque images are very much last season, as the horror genre has had a big makeover.
The shocking juxtaposition of beauty with creepiness, rather than pure gore, is luring viewers.
In "The Cut"
, currently in theaters and drawing large audiences despite the tough competition with films such as "Harry Potter 5", a group of medical students begin their anatomy class, and a series of mysterious murders ensues.
The idea of dissecting cadavers evokes gore, but the students are presented with a cadaver of a young woman who was once gorgeous. Choi Hye-jung
, a former model, plays the role of the mysterious lady. Korea's first cadaver dummy wears a rose tattoo on her breast, retaining a perfect figure beyond death.
The film's core chills are derived from haunting images of bloody red rose petals falling from the sky and the juxtaposition of youthful beauty with the dark shadows of death.
Likewise, soon to be released "Muoi : The Legend of a Portrait
" and "Epitaph"
have attracted much attention for their unnerving yet lovely posters.
"Muoi" tells the tale of a young novelist who comes across a mystic century-old portrait while searching for inspiration. Set in a luscious Vietnamese background, actresses Jo An
and Cha Ye-ryun
are ravishing in luxurious silk "Ao Dai" or traditional Vietnamese dresses, while the looming shadows of death linger in the air.
As for "Epitaph"
, necrophilia and mournful souls will creep out viewers. A young medical intern's arranged marriage is called off when his wife to-be commits suicide. Meanwhile, he falls in love with the corpse of an attractive woman, who turns out to be his dead fiancee. Twenty years later, the man, now an elite doctor, is haunted by a bizarre series of events.
is noted for its classic portrayal of Kyongseong (now Seoul) life in the 1940s, when Japanese cultural influences remained strong. The chilling story set against an attractive setting, rather than a sinister haunted house, creates a uniquely eerie ambiance.
Following the release of the film's trailer on the Internet, Netizens were excited by the striking resemblance between the dead young woman and actress Han Ga-in
, who is known here as the Korean Olivia Hussey ("Romeo and Juliet", 1968).
"Splatter movies (gory, blood-tainted stories) are prevalent in the United States, but do not fare too well in Korea", said Yoo Hyeong-jin, a researcher at the Korean Film Council (KOFIC). "Koreans seem to prefer a more sophisticated style of terror".
Yoo further explained that the noticeable rise of "beautiful" domestic horror movies is a result of producers adopting benchmarking, a process of searching out and studying the best practices that produce superior performances.
"Certain cinematic trends tend to dominate the film scene each season", he said.
So be prepared to taste horror with a touch of loveliness this summer. "Muoi : The Legend of a Portrait
" opens in theaters across the country, July 17; and "Epitaph"
, July 19.