Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

Fear: 3/5
Gore: 1/5
Creepiness: 3/5
Entertainment: 3/5
Nightmares: 2/5
After being subjected to the poo-poo platter of Slaughter Night (my review will appear shortly on I was very happy to sit down with this fine film. A Tale of Two Sisters is based on a very old Korean folk tale which has, apparently, been made into several films, though I couldn't tell you which ones. The storyline is essentially this: Dad and step mom live in a big creepy house with dad's two daughters. The girls neither respect nor like their stepmother and there seems to be some unresolved issue between the three of them. Dad is emotionally detached and really seems to exist in his own little world paying very little attention to his children or stepmother. The house may also be haunted housing more than one unhappy spirit.
Don't expect action or thrills. Like a good mystery story should, the movie takes a while to unwind and the plot moves forward slowly and in bits and pieces. This is fine with me as it allows the characters to really stretch out and become recognizable as real people. When things begin to get weird and frightening you are given the ability to really feel for the two daughters and truly despise the stepmother. When things get really nasty (and they do) you are drawn in and concerned about the actor's fates.
There are some very scary moments in this film, none of which involve high-tech special effects or splashy gore. Instead, director Kim-Ji Woo relies on the tried and true method of Hitchcock styled suspense and deliberation. There are two scenes that really jolt, one of which is an obvious homage to Ringu (in the use of the now ubiquitous Onryo ghost), the other to Audition, as well as surreal scenes that beg the viewer to rewind and ask "wait, did I just see...".
This movie is amazing to watch. The cinematography and use of color is excellent and is a pleasure to watch. Director Kim-Ji Woo has a knack for taking mundane objects and making them menacing and beautiful at the same time. There are scenes where the background is nothing more than patterned wallpaper, but it's astounding to watch. His style reminded me of Stanley Kubrick at times and, oddly enough, Wes Anderson at others.
The only complaint I have is that the twists and turns the film takes towards the end are a bit much and the story becomes a little hard to follow. Like much Asian horror, this is probably a deliberate attempt to allow the viewer to draw their own conclusion, but it left me unsatisfied. I'm just not that smart I suppose. Or resourceful as numerous Internet searches for "A Tale of Two Sisters EXPLANATION" left me still confused.
Still, I really liked this movie. It's scary, subtle and very well done.
- Complaint Dept


Renee said...

Sweet. This is next in our netflix queue.

Cortez the Killer said...

I agree 110% with this review, good job Kevin. I also love the Hitchcock style deliberation and suspense created by this flick. Even the use of the Onryo ghost (even though it has become somewhat cliched) was new and inventive. That scene, in shot and execution, had me reaching for the nearest blanket to cover my eyes. Well done overall and masterfully shot, even though the ending was a little difficult to understand. We both finally agree on a horror flick! Now go see Imprint, pronto!!