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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 Jay Seaver

"The worst monsters are at home"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 BOSTON FILM FESTIVAL: Early on, the scariest thing about A Tale of Two Sisters is the "wicked stepmother". She's much younger than Ju-Mi's and Ju-Yeong's father, smiles a bit too wide and speaks in a voice that's a bit too cheery. She's a bit too forceful in asserting her position as the woman of the house, and there's a mean edge behind her sweet words.

Soon, though, weird things are happening: The girls are seeing ghostly shapes, the father seems oddly unconcerned with what both his wife and daughters are saying, and something seems to be moving objects around. And as things get stranger and stranger, the house gets more tense, until...

A Tale of Two Sisters was described in the festival information as being in the vein of Ringu or Ju-on but with more character drama (thus making it a better movie), but I don't know how accurate an assessment that is. In Ju-on, at least, the supernatural force involved is much more abstract, a raw anger disconnected from any actual person that manifests itself in different ways. Sisters is a much more conventional ghost story whose phantoms are the continuance of tragically dead people.

Its ghosts visually resemble the ones from its Japanese cousins - and can you blame it? The pale, pale face half-hidden behind the black, black hair is a fantastic visual - but to be perfectly honest, the movie that Sisters most reminded me of is American. Not that that movie is really terribly close, once all is said and done, but it's the general feel I got.

The movie is written and directed by Ji-woon Kim, whose first movie, The Quiet Family, was remade as The Happiness of the Katakuris. It's based on a traditional piece of Korean folklore, although the two other versions listed on the IMDB seem to tell very different stories both from what Sisters starts out and ends up as. This version seems to have characters more complex than one expects from a fairy tale. Mr. Kim's script spends more time on getting the nuances of the personalities and mood right than, perhaps, on internal consistency, though I'm willing to admit that I could have missed something. The final resolution is emotionally powerful, but led me to wonder what (besides very effective scares) was going on in the dinner scene.

The cast is very good. Both Su-jeong Lim as 16-year-old Su-Mi and Geun-yeong Mun as 12-year-old Su-Yeong (ages approximate) give the impression of being damaged in different ways, with Su-Mi being outwardly angry as Su-Yeong is in retreat; they're also very believable as sisters. I liked that they aren't just sweet angels set up to be victims. Jung-ah Yun initially seems a bit over-the-top as their stepmother, but toward the end and in flashbacks reveals a different side of the character which made me appreciate her earlier work a lot more. And I particularly liked the trick of the opening scene, set in a mental hospital, where not only is it not immediately clear which sister we're seeing, but the audience can't quite be sure whether the scene is set-up for the action that plays out over the rest of the movie or a flashback book-end.

I'm frustrated as a reviewer here, because I can't sum up my opinion on the movie as a whole without giving away the tack the movie takes. Although I think the script may not be as tight as possible, the atmosphere and emotion is strong enough to merit a recommendation.

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originally posted: 10/23/04 11:56:58
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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 UmeŚ 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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