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  Tale of Two Sisters, A Buy this film here.
Year: 2003
Director: Kim Ji-woon
Stars: Su-jeong Lim, Geun-yeong Mun, Kap-su Kim, Jung-ah Yum
Genre: Horror, Drama, Weirdo
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: OK, so here’s the low-down. There’s these two sisters, yeah? Su-Mi is the elder, more confident of the two. The younger sister, Su-Yeon, eats flowers. Well, she’s a bit “simple”, you know? Anyway, they come back from “somewhere” to live with their father and stepmother, known throughout the rest of the movie as “That Woman.” (actually listed on IMDB as Eun-joo but I didn’t notice that name used in the movie itself.) That Woman is the archetypal wicked stepmother and she of course unleashes her evil relentlessly on poor Su-Yeon. Sometimes she goes for the tried and tested disciplinary measure of locking the girl in the closet. Other times she ties her up in a sack and beats hell out of her with a stick. I know, it never really did me any harm but times have changed, and that stuff went out along with dressing us guys up in pretty dresses and making us eat cigarette butts. But all this ends in tragedy in this Korean movie A Tale of Two Sisters which could itself have spilled right out of the mouths of the Brothers Grimm…

…if they had spent their lives knocking back That Woman’s Temazepam that is. If I tried to tell you much more about the plot, I would certainly ruin the big surprise for you – surprises, that is, because there are many. Yup, A Tale of Two Sisters sure ain’t predictable, no matter whatever else it may be. “Whatever else it may be,” that’s right, because to be honest I don’t know what the fuck this is, full-stop! It’s like someone dug the most luminous brain tumour out of some schitzo acid-head and called it a movie!

Director Kim Ji-woon has taken a whole new approach to making this film, a movie which already has a strange story. The result is a film that, if it were pretentious enough, may be called experimental. Thankfully though, Kim’s only goal is to indiscriminately scare the pants off his viewers, and this he does admirably. On paper, A Tale of Two Sisters' first half would seem pretty slow, mainly a family of freaks hanging around a house, but Kim manages to tweak-up the tension bit by bit until you realise you’re about to fall off your seat and start biting on your fingertips because you chewed off all your nails. By the end, things are happening so fast that it’s hard for a human brain to decipher all this weirdness suddenly being hurled at them. Like a thief in the stocks, you’re trying to restore your sense of equilibrium before another rotten apple hits you in the face…

There’s a distinct lack of music here – just a couple of quick sentimental pieces – and much of the sound is provided by either loud, ominous creaking doors and floorboards (which add tenfold to the feeling of dread throughout) or harsh power-electronics to accompany the shock sequences, rattling your fillings as well as your nerves. This adds to a cold, depressing atmosphere that may be a little much for more fragile viewers to take and there’s a distinct lack of humour here, black or otherwise (I’m presuming that the scene where the sisters’ aunt starts choking and pukes-up yellow vomit all over the floor wasn’t meant to be a “gag” (sorry!), but personally I thought it was pure Vaudeville,) which may not fare well with mainstream audiences. For the more open-minded, however, A Tale of Two Sisters is a unique, innovative film, and a good indication that Korea is rapidly becoming the new Hong Kong as far as cutting-edge filmmaking goes.

Aka: Janghwa, Hongryeon
Reviewer: Wayne Southworth

 

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Kim Ji-woon  (1964 - )

South Korean writer and director of dark comedy and weird horror, including The Quiet Family, The Foul King and 2003's acclaimed A Tale of Two Sisters. Also directed a segment of the horror anthology Three and in 2005 he turned to action with cult thriller A Bittersweet Life. His follow-up dabbled in the Western genre with The Good, The Bad, The Weird, and his extreme thriller I Saw the Devil won him some of his best reactions. His foray to Hollywood saw him direct Arnold Schwarzenegger comeback The Last Stand.

 
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