A lot of my friends have told me that they’re too scared to watch this show (and I would usually agree, but the first episode was more tragedy than horror – honestly!) … well, I find it helps to watch in broad daylight, with a stuffed animal nearby, and several handfuls of chocolate. If not, then make sure you have a lightweight funny/romantic movie on hand to brainwash you later (or melodramatic cancer shows, if that’s to your taste). In any case, I’ll try to make this one more flippant.
SONG OF THE DAY
Deb – “얼음성” (Ice castle) [ Download ]
Episode 2 – Child, Let’s Go to the Mountains
It begins on a moonlit night, where an exhausted peasant cuddles her newborn baby close. At a noble household (the hat is a giveaway, really), a different kind of motherhood anxiously hovers over her daughter, who’s been quite severely ill and not recovering. Her husband tells her to wait patiently for a famous doctor to arrive and see to her condition.
Somewhere else again, a man scrubs at another man’s corpse (in the dark, where all blood stains are highlighted by ultrablack rays of the night), but the blood marks don’t go away. Okay, then he takes out a well-used knife set and chops down with his axe. If he’s aiming for the abdomen, a smaller knife would have done, but sacrificing reality for dramatic value seems to be pretty popular right now. (*coughIljimaecough*)
The camera then follows the flight of a yellow butterfly in daylight to a pile of funerary stones.
It turns out the man is an organ trafficker. (He is also the beloved father of Jae Hee in Choon Hyang, if anyone’s curious.) He hands a mysterious body part to a woman wearing too much makeup. She’s a local witch/medicine woman, and can’t do without her supply of body parts (ewwww). Anyway, he’s given her a blueish, rather desiccated hand.
The next morning, the little noble girl, Yon Hwa, is treated by the best doctor in the capital. She wakes up just long enough to recognize her mother, but loses consciousness again. After his visit, the doctor tells the very distressed parents that her illness will soon become fatal, despite all his acupuncture techniques. Yon Hwa’s mother is very determined to not let this child die too (she’s lost another child, ow) and vows to do all she can.
At night, she feeds her daughter a small bowl of her own blood (!). Yon Hwa is briefly conscious again, and asks if she’s going to die like her older brother.
Yon Hwa’s mother goes to pray in the temple, for a long time, until almost noon. Her servant runs up with news about a miraculous witch who can cure everyone. At first, the noble woman ignores what her servant is saying because she doesn’t approve of witchcraft, but the temptation of curing her daughter overcomes her doubt.
When she goes to see the witch, she gives her a large box of gifts – basically she’s willing to empty out her house and pay as much as the witch wants if she can have a healthy daughter again. Yon Hwa’s mother balks at using a baby human liver (baby because it’s pure and uncontaminated, supposedly) to cure her daughter and gets up to leave. However, the witch goes into a fit and talks about things she shouldn’t know, which convinces Yon Hwa’s mother that her daughter has a chance with this woman.
In the end her desire to save her child overcomes her morals. (Basically.)
At midnight, the proper hour for dark doings, the witch digs up a child who’s been dead for a few days, but the corpse is rotted already. She freaks out and remembers what the grave robber (the term taking a completely different meaning here) told her – before winter comes, he has to get the organs from live people or those who have been dead for only a short amount of time.
Mr. Corpse Hunter is getting beat up by other men at an alehouse because they think his job is disgusting. (I agree, but violence isn’t the solution!) He goes home depressed and agrees to the new job from the witch. This time, however, it’s not really butchering human corpses. He has to dress up as a yangban and pretend to be adopting a child. He’s actually gleeful to be doing something good, but we know what’s going to happen to the child. Don’t do it!
The very next day he bumps into the woman we saw at the beginning of the episode, who’s been struggling to feed herself, let alone her baby. Her attempts at begging for food yield no results, so she goes home defeated and waits for death with her child. He follows her home and gives her food. (The spots on the side of his face are getting really creepy. The more I look, the more they seem like cancer spots.) He manages to convince her to part with her child, on the pretext that it’s better for the baby to be with a rich family anyway.
She manages to follow him home to the witches’ house. Realizing that something is wrong, she scoops up her baby and tries to escape but is stopped by the knife-wielding witch. In the ensuing struggle, the mother receives a heavy wound in the neck from the organ harvester. When he tries to bury her later in the night, she disappears and he falls into the grave he dug in surprise.
Yon Hwa’s mother boils the liver of the child (or the heart, as it seems to still be beating) and feeds her daughter the resulting… brew. Yon Hwa rejects it, but the witch has told her mother to feed her until she’s finished it all, so the poor girl is held down as she’s fed this vile stuff.
However, to her parents’ joy, Yon Hwa makes a complete recovery. (At first. Then everything goes pear-shaped.)
Yon Hwa’s mother makes a visit to the witch and thanks her for her role in her daughter’s cure. (She also brings a ton of food and money, which I believe are more valued by the witch.) She adds that anything the family members need in regards to the deceased baby should be fulfilled.
The mother of the baby isn’t actually dead (or maybe she is, I don’t know anymore – you’re supposed to think this is scary and dramatic, in any case), and spends most of her time wandering around looking for her baby – she seems to have forgotten the rather traumatic events of the night before. Then the woman falls down a cliff, while her spirit goes on looking for her child. (Well, now she’s definitely dead.) When she comes to the cliff and sees her own body beyond, she remembers all the things that happened to her child.
At night, Yon Hwa wakes up with a demon light in her eyes, in answer to the baby’s mother’s calls for her child. She sleepwalks a little and her own mother is able to bring her back to the present.
In broad daylight, a random woodcutter finds the baby’s mother’s corpse in a ravine, clutching her baby in her arms. The organ harvester is dismissed by the witch but ends up having to clean bodies for the local police department (before they can invite a doctor in to see the bodies?).
He tries to separate the bodies, but rigor mortis has set in and he can’t do it. When he takes an axe to separate mother and child, she springs upright from a prone position and throws the dead baby in her arms away to inquire after her own child. He doesn’t know, and tries to run away from her in fear. However, he ends up knocking over a coal brazier and sets himself on fire. She watches him burn to death. (It’s a horrible way to go…)
The witch performs a full-scale exorcism at her place.
It’s no use, though, as the woman comes at night in search of her baby. (Honestly, all that bell-ringing and gong-clanging probably does more than its share in attracting the spirit.) The seal on her door does serve to repel the ghost’s entrance.
The next day, Yon Hwa runs around happily with her mother’s servant while her mother gets a visit from the witch. She receives a protection badge, enclosed in a silk pouch. The witch warns her repeatedly that the pouch must not be opened if she is to keep her child’s spirit with her. (UH. Hello Pandora.)
Yon Hwa cries when she sees the witch, rather uncontrollably, but is given the pouch as a reward for good behaviour. Her mother pinkie swears with her that they won’t ever open the pouch, so obviously the kid’s curious. When Yon Hwa opens it in the yard, she sees two decayed fingers. Ew.
The witch knows straightaway that something is wrong when the mother demands to know why there are human fingers in the pouch. Yon Hwa is discovered to be missing from her habitual noon-time nap room and ends up in the wetnurse’s room (suckling akin to a baby). The witch decides to perform an exorcism at the noble house this time.
Yon Hwa’s basically reverted to the baby’s personality. Her mother is told not to open the doors tonight, no matter what happens, with the ominous warning that if she does, then no one in the household will live.
That night, the ghost is once more repelled from the doors. Yon Hwa goes hysterical, calling for her mother (it’s the baby talking), and the ghost goes after the wet nurse’s baby. She recognizes that it’s not her own child and tosses him/her aside.
The next day, the wet nurse’s baby is discovered to be dead, and the wet nurse crazy.
The husband hears the house servants gossiping, and understands enough of it to be displeased with his wife for employing a witch. She seriously doesn’t care, and is totally willing to do anything to save her daughter. He stays with her while she goes outside with the witch to complete the exorcism ritual.
Yon Hwa develops a fever and requests for her father to open the door, but he has orders to not open any doors.
The wet nurse has been possessed by the ghost and goes after the witch, demanding her son back. The witch lands a blow with her knife and walks away satisfied, but the ghost revives herself. She stabs the witch in the back and goes after Yon Hwa.
Yon Hwa gets worse, and her father dashes out to get someone to help, forgetting the all-important principle of not opening the door to spirits, and his daughter becomes possessed by the ghost. She tries to strangle Yon Hwa’s father. The overlay of Yon Hwa’s childlike voice with the synthesized ghost voice is just plain great.
As Yon Hwa’s mother runs along to her daughter, her husband wrestles with his possessed daughter. He goes all out trying to strangle her, and his wife has to smash a bottle on his head to get him to let go.
She takes her daughter piggyback style into the mountains, walking until late at night. She comes to the same spot where the ghost fell to her death, and the ghost makes herself known again. The two mothers fight for possession of their children, contained in one body. At first Yon Hwa recognizes her mother, but then she turns to the ghost.
In the resulting tug-of-war, Yon Hwa continually screams out in pain, and her real mother feels that it would be better to let her go than to make her suffer the pain. (Hello, King Solomon’s judgement.) She makes Yon Hwa promise to remember her face and be reborn as her daughter. Still, letting go is hard, and there isn’t a benevolent judge to make the other mother give the child up.
Supernatural wins and the ghost takes Yon Hwa down into the ravine, where she falls to her death, but her mother, feeling unable to live without her child, follows also.
The concerned family soon follows, and discovers their corpses.
In a dream/afterlife sequence, we see both sets of mother and child happily wandering around on wild fields. No lightning and thunder, and definitely no weird blue lights. Everyone is happy. There may even be a butterfly somewhere around.
– I hate to say this, but it felt kind of boring at times. I wonder why the witch spent so much energy and time safeguarding Yon Hwa. Did she lose a child of her own? Once again, this ghost is more pitiful than scary, once we have the background story. This episode felt rather flat and foreseeable, though it was stronger emotionally.
– They’re really depending on darkness, suspenseful music and blood to carry the horror elements, but it doesn’t inspire primordial terror in me, to be honest. Too much unrelieved tension sort of ruins the flow. Also, if anyone reading this is planning to take biology at one point – please do consider that some dissections are worse. If not visually, then definitely smell-wise. 😀
– And I’m sure you all know this, but it’s well-known that older corpses will sit up during cremation, and not due to possession either. 😀 It’s because as the tendons of the dead person heat up, they stretch tighter until they pull the corpse into a sitting position. So don’t worry. And in the first episodes, the really long nails are a classic sign of an older corpse – the nails detach from their bed in the finger/toe and come loose, so it looks like they suddenly grew. Obviously not to epic lengths like shown, but enough to be kind of freaky.