Oh “Ringu”, what hath thou wrought? Aside from the manic sounds of greedy movie producers all over Asia looking to cash in, that is. I suppose it wouldn’t be entirely fair to blame “Ringu” for the recent rash of assembly line Asian Horror Films that have swamped the continent of late. While “Unborn but Forgotten” may use the “race against the supernatural time clock” gimmick of the aforementioned Japanese film, it also employs the Internet as its primary means of “evil delivery” ala the brilliant “Kairo” and the recent “Fear.com”. Fortunately “Unborn” is not the unmitigated disaster that was the aforementioned American film, but unfortunately it does come awfully close.
“Unborn but Forgotten” stars Eun-joo Lee (“Lover’s Concerto”) as Su-Jin, a reporter making a documentary about a string of deaths involving women who died mysteriously after visiting a strange website. She joins up with cybercop Choi (Jun-ho Jeong, “Marrying the Mafia”) to explore the dead women’s past, eventually ending up at a website that prominently features a woman’s abortion clinic. As coincidence would have it, Su-jin is also pregnant with the lovechild of her boyfriend, a hunky but moody anchorman. After Su-Jin visits the website in question, she learns that she only has 15 days to live…
If the above synopsis of “Unborn” sounds familiar, then all you have to do is replace “website” with “videotape” and you would have the synopsis for the “Ring” movies. But that’s where the familiarity ends, because unlike that breakthrough franchise, “Unborn” is so uninterested in originality or creativity that it practically screams, “profit scheme!” from every inch of its celluloid pore. There’s nothing here for anyone who has seen even a single percent of all the Asian Horror Films that have come out of the Asian continent in the last 5 years.
Frankly, the only thing “Unborn” has going for it is its South Korean aesthetics. Even though director Chang-jae Lim is handcuffed with a silly and pedestrian script, he’s still a South Korean director and thus the movie boasts the type of high production values one has come to expect from South Korean films. The movie looks very nice, even if the script by Hyeon-geun Han basically consists of pulling the ol horror fav of “now you see the ghost now you don’t” over and over until the hour mark, when a human killer is revealed in a not-very-subtle fashion that will leave you scratching your head. Not because the sequence is so confusing, but because you can’t fathom why the filmmakers didn’t understand that the scene called for subtlety.
If you guessed that the only way Su-Jin can save her life is to backtrack the original victim and discover who killed that victim and why and thus get revenge for her and end the whole “vengeful spirit out for revenge” theme, then give yourself a gold star. Better yet, stop watching so many Asian Horror Films for a year or so, or at least until the continent gets tired of this nonsense and move on. Hey, guys, how about some originality next time? I’m used to seeing B-movie filmmakers in America cashing in on their Hollywood counterparts (consider the 1000s of “Die Hard” imitators you’ve seen over the years), but it’s a bit odd to see top-notch Asian filmmakers pulling the “is it homage or theft or just laziness” angle.
“Unborn but Forgotten” is mostly absurd, with a script so lazy it never even bothers to explain many common sense issues regarding the website and the ghostly spirit that is, apparently, running it. Gee, I wonder how much the spirit is paying a month to host that website? And is it in “spirit dollars” or actual dollars? Actually, the most interesting aspect of the script is Su-Jin’s relationship with her anchor boyfriend, whose promotion is put in jeopardy by rumors of a love affair with Su-Jin. Which brings up this curious thought: why would a single anchorman having a girlfriend who may or may not be pregnant affect the anchorman’s promotion? This is 2003, not the 1950s.
If you’ve never seen an Asian Horror Film post-“Ringu”, then “Unborn” may satisfy up to a point. Even so, I can’t see anyone thinking “Unborn” is anything beyond average. Even the acting by leads Jeong and Lee are pedestrian, as if they realized they were doing a movie that had its retread tires on and was moving in retread territory at full steam with nary a thought to take a detour. Why bother emoting with any skill when the movie you’re in is of such poor quality? I don’t blame them one bit.
Here’s a hint to Asian filmmakers: When Hollywood starts buying up remake rights to your films like hot cakes, it’s time to retire the trend and find a new one.
Chang-jae Lim (director) / Hyeon-geun Han (screenplay)
CAST: Jun-ho Jeong …. Choi Jin-Seok
Eun-Joo Lee …. Han Su-Jin