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A Tale of Two Sisters

A Korean Horror movie directed by Kim Ji-Woon

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Believe the hype - a creepy and compelling psychological horror thriller, depicting a broken family

  • Jan 24, 2010
Two sisters come home from an extended stay in the hospital, where their emotionally distant father seems both unaware and unwilling to protect them from their controlling and vindictive step-mother. Of course, as in all Asian horror, things are not always what they seem.

I'd heard great things about this film from Asian horror afficionados, and had been looking for a copy to rent for a while. I finally broke down and bought one; I'm glad I did since this is the kind of film that rewards repeat viewing, and am happy to report that it lives up to the hype as one of the most thrilling and psychologically rich horror pictures of the past decade. Fans of Asian horror will definitely want to check this one out.

The cinematography and sound design is potent -- muted colors, chiaroscuro; creaking floor boards and screams. What surprised me was how seldom the film creates a sudden scare - this isn't about shock value but about tone and slow realizations with horrific impact. The director knows how to evoke the very real horrors of being alone in a room, hearing inscrutable noises. The actors inhabit their roles thoroughly, and the emphasis throughout is on the very real relationships in a broken family, and the apparently supernatural elements are always secondary to this. The story is rich and complex, and unravels its mysteries only gradually, to the point where a full appreciation of the psychological and supernatural elements at play may require repeated viewings. This is not one of those easy thrillers that lays out all the clues neatly, and then has someone sum them all up for you in the end in case you missed anything. Still, while the film is rich enough to sustain a range of interpretations, there are no loose ends, and everything can be pieced together by the attentive viewer. Well worth watching, a few times, for those who like their horror to include mystery and enigma, and who prefer psychological complexity to tidy explanations.

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More A Tale of Two Sisters reviews
review by . March 11, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
***1/2 out of ****     "A Tale of Two Sisters" is a film that will most likely evoke many different emotions out of the audience. It may confuse you, and then again it may absorb you. Some people do not like being captured and forcefully taken for a ride when it comes to a horror film like this, but when the stops are as well-done as they are here, I can't complain about my lack of control. This film reminded me ever-so much about why horror movies aren't that great nowadays. …
review by . January 01, 2009
posted in ASIANatomy
Korean Movie poster
Based on a Korean folktale, writer/director Kim Jee-Won (The same guy who gave us the fantastic "A Bittersweet Life" ) has crafted an intelligent, absorbing piece of psychological terror that may stay with you for a long time. "A TALE OF TWO SISTERS" is the type of film that may sometimes confuse the viewer, but that confusion is part of its compelling and immersive nature. Pseudo-intellectuals will no doubt have a ball trying to de-code just what this film is all about. The …
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
Lives up to the hype. This is one of the most intriguing of the Asian horror genre - with a twist you won't expect. Much better than the American quasi-remake.
Quick Tip by . October 17, 2009
I'v seen this one numerous times & even own a copy. If you can stump me on initial viewing, you've impressed the hell outta me for sure.
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #68
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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Two young sisters recovering from an unnamed trauma must face a mysterious past in this excellent South Korean shocker. A worldwide hit upon its release and based on an old Korean fairy tale; two sisters (wonderfully played by Su-jeong Lim and Geun-yeong Mun) come to live with their cold and distant father and turn-on-a-dime stepmother in a house where nothing is as it seems. A wonderfully haunting score, starkly beautiful imagery, and a labyrinthine plot that twists and turns at every dark corner all set the stage for a riveting and often terrifying guessing game of a movie. Equal parts drama, mystery, and ghost story,A Tale of Two Sistersis a richly complex and challenging cinematic treat that may very well demand repeat viewings.--Matt Wold
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Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Horror
Release Date: December 17, 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: Mar. 29, 2005
Runtime: 1hr 54min
Studio: Tartan Video
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