Surgical Horror is a fascinating aspect of the genre. In recent years, fans have been entranced by the likes of ‘The Skin I Live In’ (2011), American Mary (2012) and Goodnight Mommy (2014); now in 2018 director Takeshi Sone presents a cutting-edge fusion of plastic surgery, a crisis of identity and pure, unadulterated sibling rivalry in Ghost Mask- Scar.
In this Korean/Japanese Production, Miyu (Yurika Akane) arrives in Seoul in search of her missing older sister. Along the way she becomes aquatinted with the enigmatic Hana (Lee Yuha) a famous plastic surgeon with some dark secrets of her own. The two develop a blossoming friendship much to the dismay of Hana’s troubled girlfriend, Hyoshin (Hirosawa Sou). As jealousies intensify; will Miyu find the answers she’s been looking for or rue the day she became involved with her new best friend?
When approaching Ghost Mask- Scar, don’t go in expecting a film that is encapsulated in the world of surgery and body modification. That element is secondary to the somewhat soap-like, melodramatic plot centring on familial feuds and relationship drama. At its core there is a hellish crisis of identity alongside the alluringly dangerous obsession with physical image; however surgical scenes are sporadic. Ghost Mask- Scar is a darkly twisted thriller with a comedic edge featuring a thoroughly detailed plot that aims to keep the audience guessing.
As the dramatic plot unfolds there is an overall sensation that something at some point will take a dark turn, drastically tipping the equilibrium from the relatively mundane, every day environment the film initially sets up.
It appears that Sone opts for an intentionally predictable twist early on but thereafter teases that not all is what it seems. He implements an intricate backstory told over the course of flashbacks which pieces the narrative together, therefore it doesn’t take long for the viewer to work out what’s going on.
Takeshi Sone served as cinematographer as well as director capturing the most picturesque cinematography from wintery landscapes to the metropolis of Seoul to the clinical white walls of Hana’s apartment.
The visuals compliment the striking coldness that’s apparent throughout the film. A haunting piano score, composed by David Audet Jellifish is heavily featured, adding to the sense of soapy melodrama the film upholds prior to the inclusion of bloodier horror elements.
Ghost Mask- Scar is deceiving in terms of the kind of movie it is marketed as. Eliminate any expectations that it’s some kind of ‘gore shocker’ as it will hardly shake up genre fans that are accustomed to this style of plotting. The cover itself depicting a blood-drenched woman with a mysterious identity (only half her face is shown) evokes that the film belongs in the ranks of ‘Extreme Asian Cinema’ but it’s simply not the case.
Ghost Mask-Scar is incredibly mawkish and doesn’t take itself too seriously, which works in its favour as it never professes to be something it isn’t. Violence is mainly implied with only the aftermath visualised. Any bloodshed is saved up and is predominantly scarce during its 81-minute run-time.
This South Korean/ Japanese co-production has the makings of a chilling mood piece but strives for a more outlandish horror/comedy feel, where the coincidental plot can be seen from a mile off. Ghost Mask-Scar bathes in all its warped irony and makes no apologies for it, with all the potential to become an audience-splitter.