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A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, 2003
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A TALE OF TWO SISTERS,  MOVIE POSTERA TALE OF TWO SISTERS, 2003
Movie Reviews

Directed by Ji-woon Kim

Stars: Kap-su Kim, Jung-ah Yum, Su-jeong Lim, Geun-Young Moon
Review by Richard Geddes


SYNOPSIS:

Present day, South Korea, a young girl is returning home from a stay in a mental hospital but strange things happen when she and her sister are reunited in their old home with their cruel stepmother and distant father.

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REVIEW:Recently remade as Ďthe uninvitedí, A Tale of Two Sisters is Asian cinema at its shocking and atmospheric best. Pigeon holing this movie as Asian horror is by no means a disservice as this genre has come to be the standard by which all modern horror is judged.

Janghwa, Hongyeon, to give it itís Korean title, (roughly translated as rose, lotus) does exactly what every horror/ suspense/ mystery thriller should do but sadly is often not the case, it keeps the audience gripped by guessing what is going on whilst the mystery gradually unravels to its emotional conclusion, it scares the audience without resorting to shock tactics via special effects or gore, favouring the power of the imagination to really send a shiver down the viewers spine and its most effective trait of remaining in your brain long after initial viewing as you piece together the clues that made up this puzzle and explain away all the little details.

The film begins with Su-Mi, a teenage girl being quizzed by a doctor in a mental hospital about her family and what she can remember about before being admitted. It is clear that something shocking happened to her that involved her family and gave her severe trauma but rather than flashback to whatever led to Su-Mi being admitted to this hospital we see how she deals with the aftermath.

It is obvious from the outset that Su-Mi and her younger sister Su-Yeon do not like their new stepmother as they try to avoid any contact with her, preferring the solitude of the pier that overlooks a lake on their secluded estate. As the film develops we are left wondering whether this distaste is due to the stepmotherís wicked intentions or Su-Miís jealousy and manipulative ways. Added to the mix however is the fact that the house is seemingly haunted by a troubled spirit.

What initially feels like a battle of cunning and will between two strong minded young women develops in to a classic haunted house horror as initial tensions are manifested into a tangible presence that can be seen by outsiders, firstly Su-Mi is visited and tormented by a bleeding spirit that tears off her covers while she sleeps. This could be put down to her fragile mind state seeing as she has just been released from hospital or even just a dream, after all, she is in bed but things become more sinister when they are visited by Uncle and his wife. After a very uncomfortable dinner, the wife seems to have some kind of seizure leading to her collapsing on her floor where she appears to see the ghost of a young girl under the sink. Is the house haunted or are tensions between the female leads causing people to imagine things.

Su-Miís anxieties are flared by the fact that her father seems cold and emotionless; maybe he is torn between being a father to his disturbed children and being a husband to his wife that is seemingly bullied by his daughters. When Su-Mi quizzes him as to why these bad things are happening to her and her sister, he tells her that Su-Yeon is dead and that she should learn to deal with it. Only Su-Yeon canít be dead as we now see her in a fight with her step mother, who must be cruel and evil as it appears that she has bundled Su-Yeon into a sack and is beating her with a stick, Su-Mi comes to rescue her sister and in the events that follow all is revealed, the reason for Su-Miís protectiveness over Su-Yeon, the odd behaviour of the uncle, the ghostly presences, the significance of the wardrobe, the hatred for the stepmother, the fatherís lack of action, the fatherís rejection of his wifeís advances, the synced menstrual cycles, but I canít tell you the answer, youíll just have to watch it.

A Tale of Two Sisters is a superbly written story excellently acted giving it a very real atmosphere. It is this realism that makes it work so well as a horror, no cheap gore porn, no gross out humour just strong characters and clever story telling. A bonus feature on the DVD also reveals Su-Yeonís story as told from her secret diary, this an amazing feature that makes the whole thing feel satisfactorily wrapped up. Any fan of Asian or horror films needs to see A Tale of Two Sisters.


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A TALE OF TWO SISTERS


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