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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 22.11%
Average: 6.32%
Pretty Bad: 8.42%
Total Crap: 3.16%

5 reviews, 65 user ratings

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Tale of Two Sisters, A
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by Brian McKay

"Unnerving, unsettling, and at times damn near unfathomable"
4 stars

While Tokyo and Hong Kong seem to have the market cornered on Asian horror movies, the Korean film A TALE OF TWO SISTERS is only mildly derivative of some, and superior to most. While many of these films tend to be thin on any kind of cohesive plot, and are content to trot out the cheap scares (usually in the form of a creaky ghost woman with black hair hanging over her face), TWO SISTERS is a slow and painstakingly meticulous film that builds atmosphere and dread in thick, palpable layers.

The thing that sticks with you the most is how full of nuances the film is. Writer/director Ji-woon Kim seems to take a page or two from Kubrick’s THE SHINING, with plenty of slow, quiet moments that are beautifully shot and manage to make even simple actions, like a girl setting the pendulum of a clock in motion, captivating. There are several quiet, contemplative moments where nothing in particular seems to happen, and yet there is something indescernibly unsettling growing within the film’s subtext. It is all of the attention to the little details that makes the film build suspense so masterfully to the gut-wrenching (and more than a little bewildering) finale’.

A TALE OF TWO SISTERS begins with teenage girl Soo-mi (Su-Jeong Lim) returning home after an extended stay in a mental health facility. After suffering a breakdown after her mother’s apparent suicide, she was placed there for a while until she “got better”. Meanwhile, her father Moo-Hyeon (Kap-su Kim) has remarried to a young wife, Eun-Joo (Jung-ah Yum), a conniving shrew who has become the quintessential evil stepmother to Soo-mi’s younger sister, Soo-Yeon (Geun-Yeong Mun).

Not long after she’s settled in, Soo-Mi begins butting heads with Eun-Joo, as she tries to protect her sister from the stepmom’s abuse and bullying. Things become even more tense, however, when she begins to experience strange things in the house. Fans of the genre will no doubt spot the RINGU references here (a static-filled TV, and yes, even a ghostly woman with hair hanging over her face), but will be pleasantly surprised to find that they are executed with superior skill and subtlety. The film infrequently jumps to flashbacks (or are they flash-forwards?) that gradually reveal an increasingly troubled tale for Soo-mi and Soo-Yeon.

As Eun-Joo’s abuses of Soo-Yeon become increasingly physical and violent, Soo-Mi’s sanity remains in question as earlier memories are contradicted by later ones, and one reality is increasingly encroached upon by another. Meanwhile, her pleas to her neglectful father for help seem to fall on deaf ears, as Moo-Hyeon chooses to remain in denial over Eun-Joo’s unsavory child-rearing practices.

The performances in A TALE OF TWO SISTERS are surprisingly superb for a film of its genre. Su-Jeong Lim is especially convincing as the troubled teen, and her outbursts seem fueled by genuine rage or terror. She never succumbs to overwrought histrionics, and renders a character that is believable, heartfelt, and tragic. Geun-Yeong Mun perfectly embodies the innocence and vulnerability of Soo-Mi’s younger sister, and nicely balances out Soo-mi’s bravery with Soo-Yeon’s timidity. The adults fare equally well, with Jung-ah Yum portraying the cruel and equally annoying chatterbox Eun-Joo to the hilt, while Geun-Yeong Mun suffers beside her as the beaten-down husband who chooses to live in denial, despite showing some remorse for having failed his daughter.

But what really makes TWO SISTERS so engrossing are the creepy visuals, the slow-burning tension, the meticulous pauses for effect, and the staggered trail of clues and revelations that inexorably draw the viewer in. There is far too much to be discerened or absorbed in one sitting, and like MEMENTO, THE SIXTH SENSE, or SESSION 9, TWO SISTERS is definitely the kind of film that begs repeat veiwings and is sure to offer up a fresh perspective each time.

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originally posted: 12/17/04 12:44:08
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Fantastic Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Fantastic Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/17/12 Langano Confusing, boring & unoriginal. Big letdown. 1 stars
8/12/11 jiropan mind blowing korean horror film 5 stars
10/13/10 Mr Bihun Tomyam that's 1 awesome Asian horror movie 5 stars
9/02/07 Markus Really great - actors, colours, soundtrack, set design, story 5 stars
4/12/07 nona s dwirafida very sad story, beauty horror 5 stars
10/16/06 stephen king fan Very well written! For those confused, read imdb forums... 5 stars
10/09/06 carol just didn't get the ending still trying to work it out, can tell who did what 4 stars
8/11/06 Bumfromkorea Excellent, excellent movie, but perhaps too complicated for marketing in U.S. 5 stars
5/29/06 malcolm super-creepy & fun, but confusing, probly hurt by translation 3 stars
4/06/06 Chris Once I realized the Stepmom didn't enter the house until she wore the business suit, it bec 5 stars
11/14/05 Kumble Interesting premise with only middling-to-far results. The explanation is unsatisfactory. 3 stars
7/31/05 Mike More a tragedy than horror imo. In any case, a very, very good film.. 5 stars
7/06/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Bought the dvd, and I still don't understand much of it. 4 stars
6/14/05 jameth burketh Decent - Pretty pictures do not horror make. The chills are all in the sound effects. 3 stars
4/29/05 ThroneofBlood Beautifully chilling 5 stars
4/26/05 E-FUNK Scary, engaging and completely confusing. Like an Asian David Lynch film. Loved it. 5 stars
4/09/05 K. Sear Mediocre at best. One of the most patchy plots I've seen in a while. 2 stars
4/02/05 irene diaz Very scary! 5 stars
3/14/05 andrea the saddest movie i've ever seen 5 stars
12/17/04 Max The Silent A visually stunning, emotionally devastating horror masterpiece. 5 stars
12/11/04 Mark Started well but ending left Me in a state of total confusion. 3 stars
10/09/04 LilyM Scary scenes. Mysterious enough to keep you watching. Still don't understand all of it. 4 stars
9/28/04 sakia ilahi wicked movie 5 stars
9/05/04 Kyle Scary as hell. 5 stars
8/31/04 julia good film! it makes you think hard! 5 stars
8/30/04 Sakurazawa I saw it, and it gets better the more you watch it~! 5 stars
8/25/04 Zepherina Not sure i understand whats going on...deffo worth a look tho! 4 stars
8/24/04 paul best thriller ever, Chilling and shocking 5 stars
8/07/04 dimitri pater very disturbing, REAL horror! 5 stars
5/14/04 Cria Lovely and sad 5 stars
4/01/04 Sumi Nice 5 stars
2/26/04 maria cute 5 stars
2/25/04 koy dragging, it's got an unexpected ending 3 stars
2/22/04 piper NICEMOVIE 5 stars
2/22/04 paulyn it's very creepy and shoking 5 stars
2/18/04 Haryanto Im Soo Jung(Su-Mi) is pretty, this movie left me depressed for days 5 stars
2/11/04 elaine meris this movie is quite creepy yet exiting 5 stars
2/09/04 Frances Ellen Alabanza Creepy!!! 5 stars
2/07/04 the Nobleman cool movie! a tale with a twist 4 stars
2/07/04 Marco,Marvin and mimmo A very scary and groovy film 4 stars
2/05/04 chuvaaaaaa! the two girls are some kind of BITCH 1 stars
1/29/04 Ryan Vargas spooky, nice story,.. cool twist 4 stars
1/20/04 Jenn Scary but somehow sad. A slave of guilt can never be free. 5 stars
12/26/03 Jamong beautiful movie 5 stars
12/25/03 jiah siuk 3 stars
12/18/03 Bob gratest movie ever 5 stars
12/12/03 John Watson a very nice movie 5 stars
11/28/03 Jon Warner A horror masterpiece. Beautiful cinematography, genuinely frightening. 5 stars
11/27/03 DA Un Chung it was great!!! 5 stars
11/26/03 maycry take a look at this , a video clip about actors of a tale of two sisters 5 stars
11/14/03 Jon Made the hair on the back of my neck stand 5 stars
11/12/03 zeroth' solaris what asad story... yet keeping you up on your toes the whole screening through.. exquisite! 5 stars
10/30/03 YBS Full of suspense, a credit to the director,excellent!! 5 stars
10/25/03 Airwind I dun get it... is she on 3 personality? 4 stars
10/25/03 Sky People who dont like it must be soo stupid. 5 stars
10/23/03 Sarah Amin excellent 5 stars
10/22/03 Kookoo i find being locked in a cupboard quite a turn-on 5 stars
10/22/03 kelly osbourne my cock smells of cheese 5 stars
10/22/03 Captain bengalaas man i peed in the cinema when i saw this and my mom spanked me when i got home 5 stars
10/22/03 derek the scariest movie i've ever seen 5 stars
10/22/03 Sean Fitzjohn Big let down on the scary bits... could have been a lot creepier...confusing storyline. 2 stars
10/13/03 isaac creepy 5 stars
10/13/03 Jonatan Sandberg Forsgren Saw it on the international filmfestival in Umeå it rocked! too bad i can't find itanywhere 5 stars
10/11/03 Kelly Lee It's the lamest movie ever made,can't compare to Local folklore.and it's way typical 1 stars
10/11/03 Foo Seok Hwee Pretty scary 4 stars
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  17-Dec-2004 (R)
  DVD: 29-Mar-2005



Directed by
  Kim Ji-Woon

Written by
  Kim Ji-Woon

  Yeom Jeong-Ah
  Im Soo-Jung
  Moon Geun-Young

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