Two sisters arrive home to their father and stepmother after an extended leave. Why were they gone? Something happened, but what? Why is the stepmother being so abusive to the younger sister…and just why does she keep popping those pills? The plot starts off slowly, but then begins to quicken its pace while miring deeper into mystery.
The movie is a puzzle. If you thought “The Sixth Sense” was deep, you’ll be drowning in “A Tale of Two Sisters.” Although it may not seem like it upon initial viewing, nearly everything is important in piecing the film together. M. Knight Shyamalan (director of “The Sixth Sense”) throwing the color red into a scene for symbolism is effective and I’m not knocking it; but the structure of “A Tale” will make your jaw drop open when you realize how intricate it is. Whole conversations take on entirely different meanings the second time you watch it; American “twist” films simply pale in comparison.
It’s beautiful to look at. The pacing, combined with the simple, acoustic guitar-based score and the almost oversaturation of color, reminds me more of French cinema (“Ponette” and “À ma soeur!” in particular) than any Asian film I’ve yet seen. This makes it all the more unnerving when the creepy stuff starts happening. The psychological tension is here, along with the more expected long-haired apparitions. The horror is both overt (those slam shots of creepy, herky-jerky ghosts that BQueen loves so much) and subtle; I was skimming through the disc after already watching it twice when I saw something in the background that gave me the willies – I hadn’t seen it before.
I can’t tell you any more without spoiling it. It’s freaky and familiar, yet different and an absolutely re-watchable experience that will be unique for at least the first two viewings. I borrowed; now I’m buying.
Pros: A unique, yet familiar, film that leaves you thirsty for answers. I could NOT stop thinking about it until I had it all figured out, and now I want to talk about it with others who have seen it. Brilliant, tight script that works on different levels the more you watch it…this, despite what you may read elsewhere, is NOT influenced by “The Ring.”
Cons: One poor translation on the import DVD that changes a meaning dramatically; if you hate twisty films that make you think, this isn’t for you.
Review Rating: 5 out of 5 times I tried to come up with something here, but it always turned into a subtle spoiler, so you’re on your own. Go get it.
“A Tale of Two Sisters” (2003)
Also known as: “Janghwa, Hongryeon”
115 Minutes; Korea
Rated R violence and adult themes.
Kap-su Kim (Father)
Jung-ah Yum (Stepmother)
Su-jeong Lim (Bae Soo-mi)
Geun-yeong Mun (Bae Soo-yeon)
Directed by: Ji-woon Kim
Viewing Format: Import DVD
(Originally published on HorrorWatch)