Unborn But Forgotten AKA Hayanbang (2002)
R0 - United Kingdom - Tartan Video UK
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (5th May 2007).
The Film

“Korean horror” is briefly mentioned in “Wikipedia” and is described to “focus more on the plight and anguish of the characters rather than over-the-top gore effects”. Now I´m not an expert on Asian-films, but I feel that this is pretty much spot-on, when one is trying to describe the general style of “K-Horror”. “Unborn But Forgotten AKA Hayanbang (2002)”, a debut film by director Chang-jae Lim is a prime example of the subtle and melancholy feel that these films often have and also the challenges that they provide for the western viewers - used for the fast pace and quick spooks. It has been said that “Unborn But Forgotten” is the Korean answer to American “FeardotCom (2002)” and influence of the mighty “Ring AKA Ringu (1998)” from Japan is pretty clear also.

Su-jin (Eun-ju Lee - e.g. “Taegukgi AKA Taegukgi hwinalrimyeo (2004)” and “The Scarlet Letter AKA Juhong geulshi (2004)”) is making a TV-report of the young detective Jin-Suk Choi (Jun-ho Jeong), who is moved from the violent crimes-unit to “cypercrimes”-section. Both are soon in the middle of the series of obscure deaths, where several pregnant women have suddenly died. More shockingly, they´ve all died in 15 days after visiting the “Mari Women´s Clinic”-web site. One woman has said to her friend how she “saw herself die” after browsing the site. After Su-jin is witnessing one strange death herself, she goes to the mysterious web site. After she sees the strange pattern on the screen, she also visions the “bright, white room” and after that - more visions. To make the matter even worse, she is pregnant by her boyfriend (also her co-worker) - a man that is more interested in getting the anchor spot at the TV station than being a father. After Su-jin hears about the “15 days”-time limit from Jin-Suk Choi, she feels completed to move to the “room 1308”, where one of the victims died. Will she find her answer from this room, where the painting of a pregnant woman is staring at her and where she can feel that the spirit world is present?

You can sum up “Unborn But Forgotten” rather easily; it´s not a bad film, but it doesn´t offer anything new to the genre. And it´s not very scary. Visually the film looks pretty good and I can´t say that the film doesn´t achieve the general “moodiness” and melancholy (that probably was the goal), but all this has been seen before too many times in Asian horror. Character of Su-jin is like a stereotype of Korean horror, a vulnerable woman who quietly sinks more and more ito the issues surrounding her and eventually has to deal with them in her own way - alone. Personal problems (or some things from the past) tangle into the supernatural and eventually the “horror” and “psychological drama” walk hand in hand, often the latter dominating. There are a few effective scares, but too few to make a real difference. Typical “character-is-very-slowly-turning-his/her-head-to-see-something-scary”-scenes just don´t cut it alone, but this method is often put in use with Asian horror (with various results). These films often rely too much on the music and sudden “music/sound effects”-cues, which is also the case here. I also feel that to simplify the script and the story would probably help with many of these movies, since Korean horror seems to have a tendency to introduce secondary characters or “twist” that doesn´t always work in the films favour. Pace is also very slow, but I guess it´s more a matter of taste whether you like it or not. Mainstream-fans probably are put off with that. The unassuming acting that Korean horror often has is also a two-sided coin. You can´t always make up your mind whether some particular actor is actually really good or not, since you get so many one-dimensional performances. On the other hand, it isn´t probably easy to be sad and gloomy for 90-minutes. In “Unborn But Forgotten”, Jun-ho Jeong (playing the detective) tends to be quite distant, almost like a supporting actor. Eun-ju Lee is clearly gifted, but is mostly dead serious (no pun intended). Since these two are sharing the main chunk of the screen time in a very serious film, it might start to wear down the audience to some degree. “Unborn But Forgotten” is a decent way to pass time, but generally it doesn´t come highly recommended. The grimmest tale also can be found from reality; the lead actress Eun-ju Lee committed suicide at the age of 25, due to severe depression. The young actress was gone way ahead of her time.

Video

If the film was a minor disappointment, so is the transfer. Presented in Anamorphic 1.85:1 (I assume it´s around 1.85:1, since the whole image is slightly “windowboxed”, so there are minor black bars on every side - bigger ones on the top and on the bottom), the transfer looks soft and generally slightly murky. Some edge enhancement - along with line shimmering is also present. Granted, the visual style of the film is rather dark and not very “eye-popping”, but still the look of the DVD doesn´t strike me as natural. A strange thing also is that, to me, the image looked slightly vertically “squeezed”. The R1-release from “Tartan US” seems to be non-Anamorphic (some confusion among the reviewers, but that seems to be the case), so perhaps “Tartan UK” used the same source and something went wrong when they made the transfer Anamorphic (purely speculating, I have no idea)? There´s also some “stuttering” in some scenes and the running times (UK= 90:12 minutes - PAL & US= 90:01 minutes - NTSC) pretty much reveals that this is not a proper “NTSC to PAL”-conversion. The transfer is passable, but not great by any means. The “dual layer” disc is “R0” encoded (back cover says “R2” - it´s hard to trust the back covers of “Tartan”) and has 16 chapters.

Audio

As usual with “Tartan”, three audio options are included - all Korean; DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (with Surround-encoding). Optional English subtitles are included. DTS sounds fair, but the mix is not spot-on. Dialogue mainly comes in all front channels, while some surround-activity is left for the rears also. The film comes alive (=loud) in the scenes with music, sound effects and such, but the dialogue-scenes tend be balanced too low for my ears. Dolby Digital 5.1 sounded quite similar, as did the 2.0-track.

Extras

-“On the Set” -documentary runs a whopping 59:23 minutes and like also the trailer, it´s in Korean (with optional English subtitles). The documentary has a purely “fly-on-the-wall”-type of structure, which means that the cameras capture random moments with the actors in the make-up chair, preparing on the scene and then shooting several takes. There is no narration, nor interviews. You can hear and see the crew fine-tuning the set and the lights and there´s also some blue screen-work. Since the documentary is very loose, you might get bored quickly. You can still see e.g. Eun-ju Lee doing several takes on the scenes where she just cries on the couch (probably quite exhausting) and the director Chang-jae Lim teaching the actor how to “scream” in the right tone (poor guy screams his lungs out several times). Scenes are lengthy and work probably best for the student actors or similar.

- Korean theatrical trailer (1:43 min) is also included.

-4-page booklet includes liner notes by Justin Bowyer.

Overall

“Unborn But Forgotten” is a mediocre effort and people who are seeking good scares probably have to look elsewhere. The solid craftsmanship and visual world that Koreans handle well is there, but the story doesn´t support it very efficiently - too much is “borrowed”. The DVD presentation has DTS and documentary, but the package has its flaws, providing also a rather mediocre transfer.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Tartan Video (UK).

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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