Takeshi Sone’s Ghost Mask: Scar is a Japanese-Korean thriller that plays as a soap opera drama before taking a turn to madness and gore in the final act.
Miyu (Yurika Akane) travels from her native Japan to Seoul to track down her older sister, who has been missing for years. While there, she meets a charming and beautiful plastic surgeon Hana (Lee Yuha). She invites Miyu to stay with her and her jealous girlfriend Hyoshin (Hirosawa Sou), who becomes suspicious of Hana and Miyu’s relationship.
The first half (or two-thirds, even) of the film is a drama about the secrets each of the girls keep, with flashbacks to Miyu and her sister’s falling out before the disappearance, as well as tensions between Hana and Hyoshin. Hyoshin is plagued by anxiety attacks and nightmares and quickly becomes jealous and paranoid of Miyu.
Although the film is meant to be a mystery, it’s one that’s fairly easy to solve. Miyu’s missing sister had an obsession with plastic surgery, so it’s not a big leap to assume she altered her face and is hiding in plain sight.
Plastic surgery weaves its way through the film, offering some commentary on how both Japanese and Korean cultures feel about the practice. Japanese Miyu thinks it’s something that needs to be hidden and is almost shameful to admit you might want, while Hana, a famous plastic surgeon herself, thinks there’s nothing wrong with the pursuit of perfection. Despite having an all-female cast, there isn’t much in the way of how plastic surgery effects women specifically. They discuss maybe wanting plastic surgery or hiding it from conservative fathers, but never talk about why they would want to go under the knife.
Lee Yuha’s Hana is the most intriguing character but due to the mystery format, a lot of her motivations remain hidden. Her dark past (a drinking problem, a dead lover) is mentioned but never expanded on, instead focusing on her unwitting role in Miyu’s sisterly feud. Yuha still shines, and you can’t help but wonder what the film could have been from her point of view.
The secrets finally come out in the finale; a bloody and violent end that, despite being what the audience has been waiting for, feels almost unearned. Ghost Mask: Scar has drawn a few comparisons to Audition with the slow build leading to gore, but it fails to match those heights. Watching one character finally reveal their true face, so to speak, is entertaining and brings a much-needed dose of fun to the proceedings but it isn’t exactly a satisfying conclusion.