A Tale of Two Sisters Review
Written by: jmh314
The best of a blossoming genre: Thats the first thing I tell people when I mention the film A Tale of Two Sisters. It is by far my favorite Asian horror film, a gem in a genre of horror that has taken off in popularity and originality in recent years. A Tale of Two Sisters is the top of that genre and it also lands in my top 10 all time horror favorites. It is a very simplistic idea that was executed to perfection and given the atmosphere needed to be one of the creepiest films ever created. It doesnt rely on blood, gore, or killings to create scares. It is all about setting the mood and making people tense, and just when they think they can let their guard down it hits them with something more harrowing. I have only seen one other film that sets a creepy tone as well as this and it is Polanski's classic Rosemary's Baby. A Tale of Two Sisters deserves to be mentioned with an all time great such as this and is a beautiful shot, must see edge of your seat horror masterpiece!
The story of A Tale of Two Sisters is very simple. Sisters Soo-mi and Su-yeon arrive back at their fathers very large country home. They are coming back from a long tip in what is assumed to be a mental hospital. Immediately we see that Su-yeon is the quieter, more reserved sister and that Su-mi is the headstrong sister. They arrive back at their home to be greeted by very little fanfare from the stepmother Eun-joo. She greets the girls with a very fake happiness that is very unnerving. She becomes very irritated with the girls immediately, and when she steps towards Su-yeon, we witness Su-yeon flinch and take a step back. Obviously the relationship between the girls and their stepmother is not a pleasant one.
As the girls settle back into their fathers large home, very strange things begin to happen. During the night Su-yeon believes someone entered the room and pulled her covers off her. She heads into Su-mi's room for comfort and spends the night there. That night while caring for her sister, Su-mi has a nightmare in her sleep with an unknwon creepy girl. When they get up and try and explain to their father, Su-mi mentions that she think Su-yeon was scared of something in her wardrobe. Their father gets very upset and said Su-mi knows better than to mention the wardrobe and she promised not to speak of it. What is the mystery behind the mysterious wardrobe and why is Su-yeon so afraid of it?
As the timeframe goes on, you begin to notice not all is right in this big creepy house. Something mysterious lurks within but trying to figure out what are dreams and what is reality can be very tricky. Are the events really happening, or do Su-mi and Su-yeon have something wrong mentally thats causing their fears? When their step mother and another house guest begin to notice that something mysterious lurks in the house, the mystery begins to take on a whole new dimension. Seperating fantasy from reality is no longer a possibility as the world of Su-mi and her family begins to spiral out of control. But can she stop the mysteries of the house and save her sister and herself from a terrible fate, or will the forces twist her reality around and prevent her from seeing the truth?
From first glance, the plot does not seem very complicated, and truly it's not. But you better be paying attention because if you miss something your thoughts may begin to fall far from reality as well. It really is a thinking person's story as it builds on the theme of paranoia. It is a film that even if you pay close attention, in the end you may have to re-evaluate everything you thought you understood but had ripped out from under you. It twists and turns and in the end takes you to an ending that not many films try and accomplish.
The acting is superb as both sisters were cast perfectly in their roles. Geun-yeong Mun does a great job playing the softspoken and frightened Su-yeon and Su-jeong Lim is great as the strong yet paranoid Su-mi. The part of their step mother, Eun-joo was well done by Jung-ah Yum who was able to show both compassion and rage towards her strange stepdaughters. Kap-su Kim seemed like he didnt even have to try to play the quiet and slow-witted father who has no idea the strains of the relationship between his wife and daughters.
As far as cinematography, this is one of the most wonderfuly artistic looking horror films you will ever see. All the shots seem to be very stylish. Everything in the house is so perfectly shot the the house begins to feel like a character in it's own way. Something about the angles and schemes used when shooting in this house made me feel as if the house took on a life of it's own. Even the creepy and tense aspects of the scenery were done in a very beautiful and sensational way. The cinematography is art in it;s own way and really helps build the story.
To go along with the wonderful cinematography was the great use of sound and music. Every little footstep, every little creak of the floorboards had me on edge. They would build you up with these effects and you'd expect something bad to happen. When nothing happens you then let your guard down and next thing you know you are hit with something greatly unexpected and shocking. The use of sound effects is so well done that I have seen very few films that build most it's intensity off some of the smallest noises. This is where the Rosemary's Baby comparison from earlier come into play. That was a film made strongly around building the intensity with sounds and atmosphere, and A Tale of Two Sisters succeeds on the very same level. The atmosphere grows more and more intense with every passing noise and will set the viewer up for many shocking moments.
I found this to be one of the harder reviews I have ever done. I love the movie and think any horror fan who loves a great intense and mysterious film needs to see this. The hard part is trying to explain it for two reasons. First off it is truly hard to explain how great a film looks and how intense the atmosphere is. I can say all the great things I want but until you see and hear what I am talking about, the magnitude of this may be lost or underappreciated. The second reason that it is hard to review is I dont want to give away any of the intense psychological aspects of this film. I feel like a lot of my thoguths here are vague but its because I truly dont want to spoil any of the extremely creepy tones this movie sets.
Take my word for it when I say a review for this movie will never do it any justice. This is more than a pyschological supernatural thriller, it is more of a mysteriously tragic poem in motion. It is one of the biggest head trips you will ever see from a movie that is filled with such asthetic beauty. You mind will be racing, your heart will be pumping and in the end you will drop your jaw in disbelief . When it's over, thats when the fun really begins in having to analyze your experience. Once you have seen A Tale of Two Sisters and think you have gotten the full experience, rewatch it with a friend who has never seen it before. I guarantee you their facial expressions throughout will be enough to make you realize how this magnificently crafted film truly mesmerizes it's viewer. It is one of the most beautifully intesnse experiences most people may ever endure.