Directed by Chang-jae Lim
Released by Tartan Asia Extreme
Tartan’s doing great things for Asian cinema fans in the States who really want to check out the movies we hear about on other message boards or from friends, but it seems like at times that they’re just scraping the barrel to see what they can get out there. Unborn But Forgotten is almost at the scraping level, though I do give it points for originality in some areas.
As the film opens, we see a pregnant woman in an old-style bathtub, seemingly getting ready to give birth alone. A silent, shadowed man enters the room, and as he approaches the tub, we realize she knows and fears him. Before she can get away, he starts attacking her, and we are left to assume the worst. Cut to a stylish credit sequence.
The story follows cyber cop Lee (Jeong) as he investigates the strange deaths occurring among a seemingly random group of women. Fifteen days after visiting a website, they are dying of very strange causes, namely their uteruses swell rapidly and crush all their internal organs as if they had become suddenly pregnant right before their death, though all the friends of the victims claim that they weren’t even a few weeks pregnant, if at all. A painful, but inventive, way to go, and Lee is stumped as to the cause.
He gets closer to the truth when photojournalist Su-jin (Lee) visits the site herself and suddenly finds herself in a pure white room. She follows a long corridor and ends in another room with a girl cradling a baby at the center of it. As she gets closer she realizes the girl is her, and then she watches herself die. Unsettlingly for anyone, wouldn’t you agree? When she realizes she’s got 15 days to live she ramps up the search for the cause behind this strange curse, and finds it in a recently abandoned apartment that was once home to the woman from the beginning. Things get complicated, but the overall story is something we’ve all seen hundreds of times before in Asian cinema, and I’m very sad to report that the Koreans in specific have become repetitive, ripping off their own ideas and re-using them in slightly different situations. It doesn’t make for the most entertaining ride.
The performances don’t help, as both Jeong and Lee seem like they’re fresh out of acting classes and thrust onto the big screen. A quick check on their careers shows that this is not the case, which is even more of a disappointment. First-time director Lim may be to blame, though he does have a relatively good eye for lighting and shot composition, and there are some genuinely creepy moments throughout. Unfortunately the film as a whole is just plain derivative and dull, though it might serve as a good starting point for those interested in Asian cinema that aren’t sure where to begin. It can only get better from here.
The sound works very well, the 5.1 enhancing some of the creepy visuals and giving life to the score, which is also a bit pedestrian, and the picture quality was pretty much what I expected. In some of the darker areas of the film it tended to get difficult to see what was happening, and I’m not sure if that’s an issue with the way it was shot or the way it was transferred.
Features include an hour-long On The Set featurette, which is literally an hours worth of camcorder footage from the filming of the movie. Those that have read my DVD reviews in the past will remember that I find this to be the worst kind of “special feature”, aside for a photo gallery (which is also included), simply because all it ends up doing is showing just how boring and repetitive it is making a movie. Throw in some interviews or commentary, guys, liven it up a bit.
Other than that there two, two-minute long interviews with the leads, neither of which are all that enlightening, the original theatrical trailer for the film, and a gathering of trailers for other Tartan releases.
It’s just too bad that a company as creative as Tartan and with the resources at their fingertips that they choose to put out pretty much anything that looks even remotely scary, no matter how dull it actually is. However, this is really the first misstep the company’s made since coming over to our shores, so I guess we can forgive ‘em, right? I mean after all, they are putting out Oldboy…
2 ½ out of 5
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