Korean horror animation film “Beauty Water“ is different from what one will associate with when “horror” comes to mind – there are no vengeful spirits and jump scares, but yet the storyline is hauntingly disturbing. Although the movie is an adaption from the webtoon of the same name, there are some differences in the plot (which I won’t be spoiling for you).
Beauty Water depicts horror from the realism of societal norms
The movie starts with Yaeji being mocked and ostracised by society because she does not fit into the mould of a conventional Korean adult: Yaeji is overweight and does not dress up or try to make herself look good, but instead piling on baggy clothes to hide her body figure. In a society that is fixated more on the aesthetics than inner beauty, Yaeji retreats to being a malicious commenter hidden behind the computer screen. This was further aggravated by her becoming an overnight mockery after screenshots of her television appearance were posted online.
Yaeji’s life, however, took a 360° turn when a box containing “Beauty Water” was mysteriously delivered to her doorstep. The thought of “nothing can be worst than now”, pushed her to try out “Beauty Water”. This was when magic happened as she walked out of her room a different person – but it was not enough. Only Yaeji’s face turned pretty, but the rest of her body still remained obese. To Yaeji, this Beauty Water was the only way out of this vicious cycle, and she will not let go of this opportunity – no matter what it takes.
Similar people who undergo cosmetic surgery procedures and are never fully satisfied with the results even though they already look good, Yaeji was also never satisfied with her looks – although she knew she was beautiful. Flashbacks of her past kept returning to haunt her, and her desperation to use “Beauty Water” each time only increases, even though it may mean taking extreme actions in exchange for it.
The movie accurately depicts the public perception of beauty in South Korea: good looking people getting their way around easier; your personality can be flawed but in the end, people will still focus on looks. The issue of malicious commenters which was also highlighted in the film, serves as a good reminder that this is an actual problem today. You may think that you are just hiding behind a computer screen being an anonymous keyboard warrior, but the psychological damage such comments can bring about is real. Although Yaeji was a malicious commenter, she was also at the receiving end, which ended up in her being totally withdrawn from society for months.
“Beauty Water” a “solution” to societal perceptions, but parents’ unequivocal love the ultimate answer to psychological health
Yaeji’s parents’ involvement in her life shows parents’ never waning love for their own children, that they will do anything out of love, no matter how much they have to sacrifice. But yet, Yaeji could not see it, and still demanded for more from her parents, who already almost gave up everything for her.
Overall, “Beauty Water” paints a tragic story, as Yaeji’s never ending pursuit for achieving flawless beauty spiralled out of control.
Beauty Water (기기괴괴 성형수) opens in Singapore cinemas from 17 September 2020.