Ghost Mask: Scar


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Ghost Mask: Scar
"Though there's a soap opera character to the overarching drama, it's in subtle moments that the film excels."

Some horror tales are at their most unnerving when the lights are on.

Young Japanese woman Miyu (Yurika Akane) is in Seoul. Officially she's there to study; really, she's there to look for her sister, who left the family home two years ago and hasn't been heard from since. Flashbacks suggest that there may be guilty feelings behind Miyu's searching, but it's not clear that she understands the depth of her sister's hurt.

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The sister, Hyoshin (Hirosawa Sou) has no desire to be found. It's no surprise that no-one recognises her in the photo Miyu keeps showing to people, because she's had plastic surgery. But when Miyu happens to meet Hyoshin's plastic surgeon girlfriend, Hana (Lee Yuha), the stage is set for a fresh encounter. Hyoshin wants to know if she really can convince as a new person, in order to complete her break with the past. The trouble is, whilst saying goodbye to her own past, she's entangled herself in somebody else's - and no amount of physical alteration can repair the damage under the surface. As she becomes convinced that Hana is having an affair with Miyu, her obsessive jealousy threatens to destroy all three of hem.

Director Takeshi Sone keeps the tension bubbling for a long time before bringing to the boil in a bloody finale. Throughout most of the film's running time, the colour red is absent, appearing only in muted forms. Hana's apartment is white as an operating theatre, almost entirely free of personal trappings; this minimalism hints at somebody who values ideas over material things, and perhaps there's a reason for that in her past. Why worry about the material when you're wealthy enough to replace anything you lose? We see her help Hyoshin through panic attacks and she seems endlessly patient and caring - indeed, that's part of her professional skill set - but she has secrets of her own.

Though there's a soap opera character to the overarching drama, it's in subtle moments that the film excels - in the ways the women use courtesy and good manners to avoid having to deal with emotion, and in its observation of the damage that can be done when people fail to recognise their comparative advantages. Hana and Miyu discuss the different attitudes to plastic surgery in each of their countries - that tension between striving for perfection and wishing to appear honest. Each of the sisters might be considered an innocent, depending on one's perspective. In many ways, the story plays out as a Gothic drama, each of the main characters struggling against fate, everything shaped by two violent incidents for which none of them is responsible.

Since branching out from cinematography into direction, Takeshi has made 11 full length feature films in just four years. To achieve this level of quality despite working at such a pace is remarkable. Ghost Mask: Scar features excellent technical work and Lee Yuha's performance is rightly drawing notice. This is a modest yet potent film with an ending that verges on the surreal, and it's indicative of talent that the wider world should be paying attention to.

Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2018
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A young woman searching for her missing sister meets a mysterious plastic surgeon.

Director: Takeshi Sone

Writer: Etsuo Hiratani

Starring: Yurika Akane, Sô Hirosawa, Sayuri Itô, Kim Jerok, Ryô Katayama

Year: 2018

Runtime: 81 minutes

Country: South Korea, Japan


Frightfest 2018

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