Popcorn Bowl 13 – Shadows in the Palace

During the Chosun period, a court lady is found dead, hanging by the rafters of the palace. After examining the dead body, place physician Chun-ryung discovers that the dead maid was probably murdered and carries out investigation even though her higher-ups pressure her to close the case as suicide. (imdb)

The costumes are great and the cinematography is top-notch – no surprise. It appears that South Korea can’t produce a movie with bad cinematography. The story is solid, but a total surprise for me. I thought it would be the usual conspiracy fare typical of palace movies but the movie went and turned into a thriller, then horror. I was scared to death at several points during the movie, my heart lurching, especially since I did not expect that at all! (Note to self – pay attention to genre categories.)

The horror totally surprised me since I know a bit about the history period, the king and the struggle between the queen and the concubine. Having watched the drama Dong Yi (one I really enjoyed, especially in the early episodes) and see the characters here terrorized by a vindictive ghost was an unusual experience. Good that I did not watch this with my family – we’re not used to such movies and my mother and sister would be scared out of their minds.

The movie starts out with darker tones, but nothing really unusual for palace intrigue, then only deepens them. There are more and more scenes during night or in dark rooms which only adds to the oppressive atmosphere.  We can see the bullying and torture of a palace maid, the exploitation of them by lecherous officials, and the rigorous palace rules dictating their lives. The usual bickering and intrigue between the concubines is present as well. one would think the palace maids would stick together but that’s not the case always. I certainly wouldn’t wish to be working there!

The mystery of the suicide inside the palace is done well and the twist satisfying. I just wished for a more in-depth characterisation so I’d have more sympathy with the heroine. Still, the story moves forward really fast once the paranormal hits in. The writers and the director did their very best to milk the atmosphere to its full potential.

I don’t want to say too much now or I’ll ruin the movie for you, but if you’re into paranormal and blood, this is the movie for you.

Trailer (no English subtitles):

Web links:

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