Friday, January 22, 2016

Film Review: A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

A Tale of Two Sisters (Review)
Kim Jee-woon/Im Soo-jung/2003
Where to watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...a human horror that digs into your skin and scars itself into your psyche."

Upon arriving home from a psychiatric hospital, sisters Su-mi (Im Soo-jung) and Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young), along with their stepmother Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ha), witness disturbing events throughout the house...

A Tale of Two Sisters follows the titular sisters, Su-mi and Su-yeon – although it mostly follows the former. The pair arrive at their secluded estate and the tension immediately rises when they bump into their wicked stepmother. Su-mi and Su-yeon generally don't want anything to do with her, so they go about their day. However, as time slowly progresses, the pair begin to experience strange and terrifying events; Eun-joo is not excused from the horror, either. It would seem a malevolent spirit is lingering in the home and a disturbing family secret is yearning to escape. Of course, this is a film where the less you know, the better. Keeping spoilers to a minimum, I must say: the ending was a bit disappointing and even a little convoluted. It ultimately paints an effectively poignant portrait, but it feels a bit cheap — for lack of a better term.

A Tale of Two Sisters is a great horror film, though. It is a slow-paced movie, but the pacing works for the film more often than not. The pace allows the ominous atmosphere to really sink in while building some great suspense. Thanks to the slow-burn suspense, the film's few jump-scares are actually effective! The story, however, is the true source of horror. It's a human horror that digs into your skin and scars itself into your psyche. Nowadays, you hardly ever feel heartbroken during a horror film — A Tale of Two Sisters will douse you with melancholy. The only issues I had with the film revolved around the ending. Don't get me wrong, the ending is still effective, but it simply felt underhanded. It's easy to create a twisted film when you purposely deceive the audience. Okay, I won't spoil it any further and I apologize if I gave too many hints, it's just disappointing, you know?

The acting is certainly not disappointing, though. Im Soo-jung is a great leading lady. Moon Geun-young is also good. Yum Jung-ah really nailed her performance, though — I loved watching her character evolve. The film is beautifully shot. Every frame is brimming with detail. The camerawork is also great. The music is the perfect blend of sorrowful and horror(ful). The film is just oozing with style. A Tale of Two Sisters is written and directed by Kim Jee-woon, who also helmed I Saw The Devil and The Good, The Bad, The Weird. Aside from the conclusion, which I've complained about enough, the film is written well. It takes extra time to develop its characters and the overarching dilemma. The direction, of course, is masterful, painting a picture of terror and grief with a single stroke.

Overall, A Tale of Two Sisters is a great horror film. Thanks to the strong characters, story, and themes, the film leaves an unforgettable impression. It has a few flaws – the ending is muddled and the pacing may not be for everyone – but the film is ultimately very effective and entertaining. If you haven't watched it yet, what are you waiting for? Huh? A Tale of Two Brothers? Seriously, though, go watch it.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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