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A Tale Of Two Sisters
2003 - - 115 Mins.
Director: Ji-woon Kim
Producer: Ji-woon Kim
Written By: Ji-woon Kim
Starring: Yeom Jeong-Ah, Kap-su Kim, Su-jeong Im, Geun-yeong Mun
Review by: James O'Ehley
Official Site: www.tartanfilmsusa.com/
   

Roses are red . . .
In this Korean horror flick, two close sisters named Su-mi (Soo-jung Im) and Su-yeon (Geun-young Moon) return to their father’s country house after a stay at a mental hospital. Things however aren’t well at the large isolated house. For starters, there’s their new stepmum who isn’t particularly glad to see them. Also, their father is more distant and taciturn than before. Some terrible unmentioned secret is gnawing away at this family, but we in the audience don’t know what it is, although we have our suspicions (which are probably wrong actually).

But most disturbing is the spooky stuff that starts happening immediately upon the sisters’ return – from unexplained little events to full-blown hallucinatory nightmares. Is the house haunted by the ghost of their dead biological mother? Or is their stepmother playing mind tricks on them? All will be revealed (sort of) by the end of the movie . . .

Asian horror movies are hot stuff ever since the recent box office success of the Hollywood remakes of the two RING movies and THE GRUDGE. While A TALE OF TWO SISTERS won’t exactly be anything new for the fans of these movies, it is still one of the better examples of this particular subgenre, which is typically low on gore and heavy on scary atmospherics. And here those slow brooding atmospherics are pretty darn effective. I’ll be honest here: this movie scared the hell out of me!

Like most good horror movies A TALE OF TWO SISTERS preys more on our fear of the unknown than any jump-in-your-seat sudden fright tactics or excessive gore thanks to the director’s use of clever camerawork, editing and music. The acting is also effective even though the stepmother (Eun-Joo) often reminded me of a more demented version of the Annette Benning in AMERICAN BEAUTY.

Somewhere towards the end the narrative starts falling apart because of its “is this real or not?” theme and the film’s jumps in time. The ending is still cogent even though I’m sure some may find it contrived and unlikely. But the point isn’t the destination, but the ride, and this is one hell of a scary ride . . .

Ultimately A TALE OF TWO SISTERS may disappoint more hardened horror fans with its low death rate, but will be enjoined by the rest of us.

(By the way, the movie’s tagline is “fairy tales have never been this Grimm” an allusion to the fact that the movie is apparently based upon a Korean folk tale. Nowhere on the special DVD edition – I use the word “special” because so far none of the other movies released on the Asia Extreme discs by Tartan Video has so far been two-disc editions – could anyone inform me how the original folk tale went! Otherwise, the two-disc edition is quite informative and interesting, and ultimately well worth checking out.)
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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