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Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait (2007): Movie: The Legend of a Southeast Asian Horror Film You Haven’t Seen Before

Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait (Tae-yong Kim, 2007)

The film's two protagonists haunted by the titular ghost adorn the movie poster.

Hmmmm, long-haired female ghost. Nope, never seen THAT one before.
photo credit:

I swear up, down, and sideways that I first watched Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait when I was hospitalized almost a year ago. A couple of days later when I was updating the list, I looked at the poster and synopsis and realized I didn’t remember a blessed thing about the movie, so I removed it. I got round to watching it last night, and that was a good decision; if I did watch it, I didn’t remember a single thing about it. I also distinctly remembered giving it three stars (which makes me think I may, in my dilaudid-fueled hospital haze, have been mixing it up with Gidam, which did get three stars, and which I watched on January 15th, a week before leaving the hospital); this watch puts it much closer to Ryeong, the other Tae-yong Kim movie I’ve seen (Ryeong was his first, Muoi, three years later, his second).

Searching through a cobweb-infested room in a still form the film.

“Wow, I feel like I’m in a horror movie! Oh, wait…”
photo credit:

Considered (according to Wikipedia) the first post-Saigon Vietnamese horror film (while Tae-yong Kim is Korean, most of the film was shot on location in Vietnam), Muoi concerns the trials and travails of Yoon-hee (My Little Hero‘s An Jo), a Korean author suffering from writer’s block. (Is there any author ever portrayed in a movie who isn’t?) Her last book, a semi-autobiographical tale called Secrets and Lies, lost her most of her friends, but once day she gets a call from Seo-yeon (Voice‘s Ye-Ryeon Cha), who it turns out has been living in Vietnam for some years now, and so may not have read the book. She floats the idea of Yoon-hee coming to stay with her for a while and, upon hearing of Yoon-hee’s problems, mentions the story of Muoi, a Vietnamese ghost whose tale is just begging to be told. Yoon-hee heads off to Vietnam, the two of them hook up, and Yoon-hee gets down to researching—but she soon discovers that most everyone she talks to is reluctant to give her any information, fearing they will bring the wrath of Muoi down upon themselves. This is not helping her writer’s block any. Neither are those strange noises, nor the things she keeps just almost seeing out of the corner of her eye…

An Jo, in bed, looks up at something we cannot see in a still from the film.

The Picture of Korean Gray?
photo credit: AT&T

I wouldn’t necessarily call Muoi a bad movie, but I would certainly go far enough as to say it’s mediocre in the worst way. Everything about it is competently done; it is well-acted, decently-directed, with cinematography and lighting teams who are experienced and good at their jobs, the soundtrack is effective if generic, etc., etc. Thus we get to the real sin of omission: if you had assembled a team this good to make a movie, why didn’t you even try to do something with even a single facet of originality? This is completely faceless work, just another horror movie that looks and feels like hundreds of other movies like it. If that’s what you’re looking for, Muoi is certain to take the edge off…but that’s all it will do. **

Trailer. Subs? We don’t need no stinking subs!

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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