After I watch a film I like to do a quick wiki and imdb search so I can make sure I get names right and research the odd bit of trivia. After looking up A Tale Of Two Sisters I found out that it was remade as The Uninvited in the US. Never saw that but… huh. Watched the trailer. The Uninvited looks like they turned it into a horror whodunnit. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say if you’ve only seen the US remake go get yourself a copy of A Tale Of Two Sisters because it is real friggin’ creepy. On with the review!
Ever see The Prestige? Good film. It gives you a massive great big clue to explaining the films finale in the first shot and most people will have forgotten a few minutes in. John Carpenter’s The Thing does this also but you’ll need to learn some Norwegian to know that. A Tale Of Two Sisters does pretty much the same and despite this you’ll still spend the whole film wrapping your noggin around what is happening. Much like The Shining this film plays with both the horrors of the supernatural and the horrors of mental illness. It manages it in such a way that you really aren’t sure which is the cause of Su-Mi and Su-Yeon’s troubles until the directors says you can know. It throws red herrings at you yet gives you every clue you need to figure out the story. This is how you weave a real mystery.
The story is of two sisters, there’s a clue in the title, who have gone to stay with their father and his new wife. Su-Mi and Su-Yeon have a relationship that’s almost symbiotic. Su-Mi takes care of the mentally fragile Su-Yeon whilst she gives Su-Mi some much needed company in this lonely house. Soon both are haunted by spirits whilst Su-Mi believes that their stepmother is abusing Su-Yeon. What’s the truth of the matter? You’ll see. Even after you do your mind grapes will be mulling over everything you have seen figuring out what has been happening just as the film begins to show you. It’s a excellently crafted and intricately plotted piece of horror for sure.
If you’re the sort of person to have seen both the original and US remakes of any number of Asian horror films you’ll know full well that the scares always work better in Asia. A Tale Of Two Sisters is no exception I’m sure. This will send genuine chills down your spine. It will make you jump at just the right time and every moment of tension will be drawn out to it’s Nth degree with masterful directorial skill. The director, Jee-woon Kim, is a master of all forms of horror if this film is anything to go bye. It’s fairly surprising that he has shied away from the genre since this, he’s also the director of The Good, The Bad And The Weird and the recent I Saw The Devil. I certainly feel he has more to offer the horror world after this film.
Performances are typically strong throughout, as they are in a lot of high profile Korean films. There’s something odd about how Asian actors can convey fear so much better than Western actors. You’ll see this in other female lead Asian horrors such as The Eye and Ringu. Both of which have US remakes that fall a little flat. Especially the former. The film begs to be viewed a second time as nearly every scene will take on a new meaning on a repeat viewing.
It’s hard to fault a film so masterful. It can be tough going if you’re not that keyed into reading film and story for anything more complex than let’s say the latest Fast And The Furious film but for most people this will be an easy story to unravel. There is one scene which does make you ask questions involving a dinner party gone wrong. It’s a scene that when you go back to it you’re not entirely sure why what happens does happen. I’m still trying to figure out how it fits into the reality of the film. Unless maybe there is something more going on being alluded to here.
Overall the film is expertly crafted, shot and acted. Every scare scene works as intended and I can’t see anyone giggling at a scare. Unless they’re reaction to pure terror is to enter a laughing fit. After seeing this you can understand just how the director got the budget and shooting schedule he did for The Good, The Bad And The Weird. It’s because after seeing this I doubt anyone wouldn’t feel safe financing whatever crazy idea he has next because you know it’ll be gold. Maybe he doesn’t have the finesse or the eye for a shot as say Park Chan Wook has but Jee-woon Kim is certainly a skilled director of various genres. See this film and be reminded of just why US horror films always fail to scare. Because they just aren’t this well made.
Speaking of horror films. I’ll be doing a Halloween Horror Week at the end of the month. Hopefully I can pull out a few classics from my collection worthy or note.