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Ringu any bells?
A region 2 DVD review of UNBORN BUT FORGOTTEN / HAYANBANG by Slarek
 

Followers of Far Eastern horror cinema are well used to seeing their ideas stolen and regurgitated, initially by Hollywood, but increasingly by the very countries that gave birth to the works being pilfered from. We genre fans learn to tolerate quite a bit, but Chang-jae Lim's Unborn but Forgotten [Hayanbang] really pushes its luck. It's essentially a Korean reworking of FeardotCom, William Malone's tawdry beat-the-official-remake-to-the-post retooling of Hideo Nakata's seminal 1998 Ringu, which has already been remade in Korea in 1999 as Ring Virus. The passing of time has not helped matters, with the plundering from the Ringu pot becoming increasingly a sign that the ideas bank has run dry.

Lim makes no attempt to disguise the borrowings and little effort to adapt them. Consider the following. In Ringu, young female TV journalist Reiko Asakawa investigates a series of mysterious deaths involving young people who expired a few days after watching a supposedly haunted video tape. In Unborn But Forgotten, young female TV producer Su-jin Han investigates a series of mysterious deaths involving pregnant women who expired a few days after visiting a strange web site. In Ringu the ante is upped when Reiko herself sees the video tape and the phone immediately rings, signifying that her time too may soon be up. In Unborn But Forgotten the ante is upped when the pregnant Su-jin clicks on the mysterious web site and starts having visions, signifying that her time may soon be up. In Ringu, Reiko enlists the help of her ex-husband and the two find themselves in a race to uncover the secret of the tape before she falls victim to its curse. In Unborn But Forgotten, Su-jin enlists the help of detective Choi and the two find themselves in...well, you get the idea.

Despite this rather precise recycling, the development is plodding and lacks the the screw-turn provided in Ringu when the tape is also viewed by Reiko's young son, as well as Nakata's enviable skill at storytelling and building atmosphere. And despite a couple of half-effective moments, the scares just aren't that scary, and in the case of the closed-eye doll that suddenly opens its eyes, both predictable and old-hat. The nearest the film came to even giving me the smallest of creeps was when Su-jin ventures into an attic crawlspace with only a torch for illumination, the sort of restricted-vision wandering into the unknown that always winds me up a little.

I've seen three Asian horror movies in the past week (all released under Tartan's Asian Extreme banner) and all are guilty of various degrees of pilfering, but at least Inner Senses and Cello had ideas of their own and were smartly enough made to prompt a degree of forgiveness. Unborn But Forgotten doesn't so much borrow as rip off, and not just from Nakata's and Malone's films either – hints of The Others, It's Alive and even The Shining are not too hard to spot, while the style of the opening title sequence has been blatantly diluted from David Fincher's Se7en. Asian horror completists will want to add it to their viewing list nonetheless, but they are likely to find that this time they really have seen it all before.

sound and vision

The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer here is in some ways typical of how Far Eastern horror too often looks on UK DVD – not bad, but not great. Colour is slightly off in places, sharpness loses out a tad to grain, there is some occasional edge and pattern shimmering, and the contrast is sometimes on the heavy side, resulting in a loss of shadow detail, some of which may be down the NTSC to PAL conversion. Slightly more curious is the occasional feeling that the picture is slightly squashed up vertically – this struck me more than once, but on checking circles (when they did appear) they seemed fine.

Of the three available soundtracks – stereo 2.0, 5.1 surround and DTS surround, all original Korean – it's the surround tracks that work best, with the expected musical shouts of "Boo!" considerably louder here, and the atmospheric effects and music more inclusive. The surrounds are not used to the degree they are in some Asian horrors.

extra features

On the Set (59:23) is a lengthy assembly of behind-the-scenes footage, stuck together without any real eye for structure or ear for sound continuity. I find any such footage interesting, but the formless and rambling nature of this one does make you yearn for it to be handed to an editor who would probably have cut it down to about ten useful minutes and begged the director and actors to actually go on camera to talk about what they were doing. Most of the dialogue is subtitled in English.

The Original Korean Trailer (1:43) is in slightly grubby shape and cheekily uses the term "Something New" to describe a product that is anything but.

summary

Not much to say here, another mediocre rip-off of one of the defining films in modern horror on a distinctly average DVD. You've been warned.

Unborn But Forgotten
Hayanbang

South Korea
91 mins
director
Chang-jae Lim
starring
Jun-ho Jeong
Eun-ju Lee
Ji-yu Kim
Seong-Yong Kye

DVD details
region 2
video
1.85:1 anamorphic
sound
Dolby 2.0 stereo
Dolby 5.1 surround
DTS 5.1 surround
languages
Korean
subtitles .
English
extras
Making-of featurette
Trailer
distributor
Tartan
release date
4 December 2006
review posted
13 December 2006

See all of Slarek's reviews