A Tale of Two Sisters review by The Grim Ringler

There is a particular weirdness and sense of doom that prevails in Asian horror films and it’s something American filmmakers can rarely come close to the creepy chills that our foreign friends find so easily. As scary as these movies can be, not all are successful in their goals and a mood can overpower a story and harm the whole. I give to you…A Tale of Two Sisters.

Two sisters return to their childhood home after one has suffered a hard illness. One sister looks out for the other, seemingly fearful of a world that wants to swallow her whole. In the house the stepmother is an ogre to the girls and starts to watch them very suspiciously. As she is watching though things are starting to happen in the house, which defy logic and which begin to spread a thick dread over the place. The smaller of the sisters, she who is being protected, begins to feel late night presences in her room and feels a growing fright at the sight of a mysterious closet that sits in her room. As this is happening the father is fighting to keep his family together as it seems to him a peculiar madness is spreading slowly through the home and the people he loves. Things take a turn for the worse with the family as the stepmother and second daughter also begin to see phantoms that do not belong and begin sensing that there are things within the house that are trying to make contact with them. The sisters are also becoming separated more and more often as well and this culminates with the stepmother placing the weaker sister into the closet she fears so much after something has happened to the stepmother to cause her to think the sisters are playing tricks on her. But as more and more happens within the house (the seemingly older and protective daughter being awaken by a specter seen first crawling on her floor but which stands and walks towards the girl, ending up standing above her on her bed as a half-glimpsed hand reaches down from within the skirt to grab at the girl) we slowly suspect that something more is happening within the house and within the daughter Su-mi, who has been so hateful of her step mother and so protective of her sister, and slowly we begin to see that perhaps the monsters in the house do not come from outside the house but from within Su-mi.

A very well filmed and well-crafted film, this is far from a bad movie. It has more tension and dread than most American horror films can hope to lay claim to having. Well paced, this film is in no hurry to reveals its secrets, nor its ghosts, before the time is right, and that is a great strategy for the movie as it allows the characters to slowly fall apart just because of the things going on within themselves, which is all compounded by the appearance of rotted specters and images of death. There is a very dark heart to this story and once it’s revealed it does fill the viewer with a sick sense of sadness as to what has lead to what is happening but the way the film was written and structured really hampers this. There is no true finale and the ending we are given, while chilling, feels so open that you are left with too many big questions and barely any answers. The tension the film creates is so wonderful that the story and its secret become so transparent and the ending is so vague really left a bad taste in my mouth.

Which is not to say it is a bad film in the least. The person I watched this with, a true connoisseur of Asian film, really loved the movie and bought into it all. I didn’t. It is a very strong ghost story, with some haunting images and some creepy ideas that could have been better utilized within a different story structure. I will also note that before my friend and I saw this film we were given a very foolish clue as to the nature of the film’s horror by another friend who had seen this movie before us and it was hard to shake that knowledge while we watched.

I am not sure if this shall be released in America or not but I am sure if you check the Internet you can find some Region 0 DVDs out there. The image on the disc was clear, the sound not overwhelming but not obtrusive, and the movie was very well shot and shows a strong ability by the filmmakers to capture suspenseful scenes in their fullest. I really wish I liked this film more as it’s the kind of movie we here in America rarely get, but which sadly, didn’t quite live up to its own ambitions I am afraid.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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