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Directed by the Jeong Brothers, 2007
27 November 2009

An old doctor, circa 1979, discovers that the Ahn Seng (Safe Life) Hospital, one of the most modern medical facilities in the colonial period, is about to be demolished. This sets off reminiscences of his internship days at the hospital in 1942, when he got caught up in a number of supernatural episodes. Epitaph, the debut film of the Jeong Brothers (Jeong Beom-sik and Jeong Sik), is a refined, intelligent and surprisingly effective Gothic horror film.

The Jeong Brothers were honored for this film with the New Director award at the Pusan Film Critics Awards. The film also received international recognition when it was screened in the Zabaltegi-New Directors section of the 2007 San Sebastian International Film Festival.

Unlike traditional horror films, which rely on instant gratification via sudden scary images and sound effects, Epitaph brings beauty and finesse to the genre with exquisite cinematography and an intricate plot. Epitaph opens in Kyung Sung, the capital of 1940s Japan-occupied Korea.

Ahn Seng Hospital lies in the center of the city, representing the twin glories of Japanese Imperialism and western modernization. Two doctors, In Young and her husband Dong Won return from their studies in Tokyo to work at the prestigious hospital. There they meet Jung Nam, an intern who feels trapped in his arranged marriage to the hospital director’s daughter, and Soo In. The city is in terror as a serial murderer is at large.

In the midst of this tense situation, a ten-year-old girl wheels into the hospital, the only survivor of a car accident that left her whole family dead. Oppressed by the tragedy of such an event and the helplessness at their own secret love affairs, the four doctors find themselves inching closer towards examining their own mortality.

Well-cast and superbly acted, Epitaph uses a convoluted, multiple flashback and time lag structure. The film has been recognized as a significant contribution to the K-horror genre. With this fastidious, refined yet emotionally satisfying Gothic horror piece, the Jeong Brothers have successfully proven that they are talents to watch out for in the future, their debt to director Park Chan-wook notwithstanding.
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