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Worth A Look: 22.11%
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5 reviews, 65 user ratings

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Tale of Two Sisters, A
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by MP Bartley

"I don't understand it, but I know it scared the living crap out of me."
5 stars

What is it with the far East and their ever-increasing brand of horror films? Over the last few years, the best horrors have all tended to come from those shores and have generally beat the socks of anything Hollywood has to offer. They all have a running theme too, of managing to make the everyday scary. 'Ringu' made videotapes scary, 'Phone' made er, phones scary, 'The Eye' found horrors in lifts, and 'Audition' put everyone off blind dates for life. What are they going to fill with horror next? Pencils? Cellotape? 'A Tale of Two Sisters' is different however in that it's much more traditional - it's a haunted house story. But this is the scariest haunted house since Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall checked into the Overlook.

Im Soo-Jung and Moon Geun-Young are the titular sisters who have moved back in with their Da in their country house after some unspecified break. Except it's not just those three. There's also Dad's new (much younger) wife and their stepmother (Yeomg Jeong-Ah). It's instantly clear that this is your typical stepmother/stepdaughter relationship - distrust and barely contained loathing on both sides. But there's not just the four of them either. There seems to be a presence in the house, manifesting itself either as a broken backed woman or a long haired little girl. Quite who it is or what its intentions are unclear, but what is clear is one thing - it's bloody terrifying.

I can't recall the last time I saw a horror film where the entire audience jumped at the same time. Most of the time the more intelligent audience member can see the jumps coming but here, director Kim Ji-Woon times them beautifully, catching you off-guard and sending you up the walls. Ji-Woon also has the uncanny knack of knowing exactly how long to draw out a sequence and how to get the maximum suspense out of the scenes. A simple scene of the stepmother investigating a noisy sink will shred your nerves several times before letting you go for instance. I could hear the audience all letting out a collective breath several times throughout the film.

So yeah we're talking scary. And not 'Boo!' scary. We're talking pushing you back in your chair, scared to look at the screen scary. Towards the end I was looking at my watch saying "Please let it end, I can't take any more". And not in a 'Van Helsing' way, in a 'my nerves literally can't take any more' way. A bedroom encounter with a ghost plays like the girl crawling out of the tv in 'Ringu' but amped up to 11. Yeah, it's that scary. It looks great too, full of colour but the house has almost a life of its own with the seemingly ordinary made to look terrifying.

The set-up of two distrustful children and their unfriendly stepmother will be familiar to anyone who's ever seen a British horror film, 'The Innocents'. But the clever thing here is, we're never sure who to believe and who's the villain. Is it the children trying to drive the stepmother crazy or is it the other way round? It cleverly see-saws between the two so you're never sure who to trust, particularly with the good acting here. This sense of unease simply intensifies the fear as you're sure no-one's safe from the ghost.

So why is there an eventual lack of understanding about what eventually happens? The ending tries to explain everything away in flashbacks, but there's so much going back-and-forth that it all becomes muddled and ends with not the big scare that it perhaps should, but with more of a wink to the audience that says, yes it doesn't make much sense, but damn didn't we scare you anyway?

'The Exorcist'. 'The Omen'. 'The Shining'. 'The Blair Witch Project'. 'Hallowe'en'. 'Ringu'. 'Night of the Living Dead'. All classics and all soul-shakingly terrifying. 'A Tale of Two Sisters' deserves to be mentioned in the same breath and you should see it now before Hollywood remakes it with Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8251&reviewer=293
originally posted: 09/03/04 10:24:10
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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

6/16/12 Langano Confusing, boring & unoriginal. Big letdown. 1 stars
8/12/11 jiropan mind blowing film....best korean horror film 5 stars
10/12/10 Mr Bihun Tomyam that's 1 awesome Asian horror movie 5 stars
9/01/07 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
10/08/06 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
5/28/06 malcolm super-creepy & fun, but confusing, probly hurt by translation 3 stars
4/05/06 Chris Once I realized the Stepmom didn't enter the house until she wore the business suit, it bec 5 stars
11/13/05 Kumble Interesting premise with only middling-to-far results. The explanation is unsatisfactory. 3 stars
7/30/05 Mike More a tragedy than horror imo. In any case, a very, very good film.. 5 stars
7/05/05 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
4/28/05 ThroneofBlood Beautifully chilling 5 stars
4/25/05 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
4/01/05 irene diaz Very scary! 5 stars
3/13/05 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
12/10/04 Mark Started well but ending left Me in a state of total confusion. 3 stars
10/08/04 LilyM Scary scenes. Mysterious enough to keep you watching. Still don't understand all of it. 4 stars
9/27/04 sakia ilahi wicked movie 5 stars
9/04/04 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
8/23/04 paul best thriller ever, Chilling and shocking 5 stars
8/06/04 dimitri pater very disturbing, REAL horror! 5 stars
5/14/04 Cria Lovely and sad 5 stars
3/31/04 Sumi Nice 5 stars
2/26/04 maria cute 5 stars
2/24/04 koy dragging, it's got an unexpected ending 3 stars
2/22/04 piper NICEMOVIE 5 stars
2/21/04 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
2/10/04 elaine meris this movie is quite creepy yet exiting 5 stars
2/09/04 Frances Ellen Alabanza Creepy!!! 5 stars
2/06/04 the Nobleman cool movie! a tale with a twist 4 stars
2/06/04 Marco,Marvin and mimmo A very scary and groovy film 4 stars
2/04/04 chuvaaaaaa! the two girls are some kind of BITCH 1 stars
1/28/04 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
12/25/03 Jamong beautiful movie 5 stars
12/24/03 jiah siuk 3 stars
12/17/03 Bob gratest movie ever 5 stars
12/11/03 John Watson a very nice movie 5 stars
11/27/03 Jon Warner A horror masterpiece. Beautiful cinematography, genuinely frightening. 5 stars
11/27/03 DA Un Chung it was great!!! 5 stars
11/25/03 maycry take a look at this , a video clip about actors of a tale of two sisters 5 stars
11/13/03 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
10/24/03 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
10/12/03 isaac creepy 5 stars
10/12/03 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
10/10/03 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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