This is an extremely good film, especially when it comes to the actual plot.
The story starts out as a basic horror story, with Rosa, the young girl, violating various cultural taboos as far as Hungry Ghost month, and she starts seeing ghosts, one of which is Sadako-like, the others pretty standard.
But just when you think you're seeing just another standard horror movie, the rest of the plot begins to come into play and you realize you are watching a remarkably well written, very complex movie where things are definitely not as they seem, and the evil beings may not be ghosts at all.
When you reach the end you realize that you've finished watching a really good, really different type of horror movie.
The narration refers to the Chinese Seventh Month and various rules that need to be followed. Once a year, during the seventh month, the Gates of Hell open. Respect will be paid to ancestors and wandering spirits during that time.
The girl, Rosa, who will become the maid, talks in English.
The woman explains that today is the first day of their seventh month, which is called “hungry ghost month.” She also talks in English. She also explains some of the rules of the month to her, like if she is walking alone and she hears someone call her name she is not to turn around.
She sees some people who appear to be burning some money to keep spirits away.
Their son is mentally retarded. Rosa met him after wandering around the house some. Normally I'm fairly good with architecture, but I just can't figure out the layout of the house from the path Rosa was walking.
Rosa tries to sweep up the ashes in front of the house but the woman stops her, saying it's bad luck to do that.
Suddenly something seems to grab her and it changes from day to night (with a strong blue influence). She sees some kind of girl crawl toward her (the Sadako crawl) and screams, and then she's back in the daylight.
The woman gets mad at Rosa about her going out by herself to mail a letter. Unfortunately, her English is not that good, there are no subtitles, so it's hard to make out all of what she is saying.
Rosa goes with the people she works with. They are part of a opera company, and she watches as the opera is performed. Apparently she sits in the first row which is reserved for ghosts.
A ball passes her and a little boy asks her to get it. She finds it deflated, and the boy, bloodied, moves under her.
Rosa goes home by herself and has further encounters. Finally the couple arrive and find her huddled up against a desk.
The woman explains to Rosa that she must have offended the ghosts and that is why she can see them, but if she let's them be they will let her be (which hasn't been born out by what's happened so far in the movie, though.)
She is going to mail a letter and finds the son eating offerings to the ghosts. She takes him to get something to eat properly but he ends up leaving without telling her. Then, on the way home, he hears someone call his name.
It turns out the old woman he met was a ghost.
Rosa continues to see the ghosts. Now she's actually doing some maid-type work. So far the ghosts have scared her, but none of them have actually tried to hurt her.
Then a mystery starts up. She sees a ghost, which isn't unusual, but she's found a couple of references to some other girl that must have been there in the past.
She has yet another nightmare.
There's also been someone watching her throughout the film and Rosa finally gets a chance to confront the girl. The girl knows about Esther, the mystery girl that Rosa has been finding clues about.
The woman tells Rosa that Esther had been a maid there and one day she went missing.
The girl she is talking to suddenly starts to change. She follows the girl but the girl jumps from a balcony and is killed.
She hears a noise upstairs and finds a key to unlock a door. The drum is making sounds.
She rips the drum open and finds Esther's body inside. Esther's spirit talks to Rosa and shows her what happened.
She tries to run away, collapses, and is brought back home where they tie her up and plan to kill her like they did Esther. Apparently the son had raped Esther. They killed her to prevent her telling the police about what their son did to her.
It turns out that the son is dead. He returned at the start of the month.
The woman tortures Rosa, trying to get her to agree to marry her dead son.
The plan to hang Rosa. The son realizes what is happening and hits the father, knocking him into some candles and catching his clothing on fire.
Esther causes the rope to catch on fire and burn in two before Rosa dies.
Rosa gets out of the house but the woman comes after her with a knife. She's hit by a car. Rosa will take Esther's ashes back home to be buried.
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