Written By: JR
Edited By: Grave Review Staff
Director: Kim Jee-Woon
Producer: Jae-Won Choi, Jung-Wan Oh, Ki-min Oh, and Jeong-Wan Oh
Screenwriter: Kim Jee-Woon
Date of release: June 13, 2003
Kap-su Kim as Moo-hyeon Bae (Father)
Jung-ah Yum as Eun-joo Heo (Stepmother)
Soo-jung Kim as Soo-mi Bae (Older Sister)
Geun-young Moon as Soo-yeon Bae (Younger Sister)
Rating = 3/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Soo-mi and Soo-yeon return to their lakeside country house together with their father who was then a widower but now remarried to a pesky woman. The sisters have grown more resentful of their stepmother while they are being tormented verbally and physically, even more helpless due to their father’s passive attitude. As they try to shun away all the agony, alarming events plague the house leading to delusional episodes and harrowing revelations.
The Gore Factor
The violence of this film heavily lies in the dynamics of an abusive stepmother, inflicting bruises and wrist cuts to the sisters. There are scenes wherein the stepmother forcibly drags Soo-yeon from her bed and locks her inside the closet. The sisters, in turn, have externalized the brutality exacted on them when Soo-yeon snaps a bird’s neck. The peak of assault is probably when a cement sculpture is thrown at Soo-mi’s face, then after, the stepmother is struggling to lug a sack containing an emasculated body, leaving trails of blood on the floor. Nevertheless, the bloodshed in this film is but a drip compared to the aching mental figments of a traumatized character.
The Grave Review
A Tale of Two Sisters is a rewarding psychological horror that is carefully structured by a trajectory of guilt and grief. Jee-woon Kim, as a screenwriter and director, has exhibited a remarkable disjointed story line that hones a seemingly interminable pace to depict mental trauma. He invites the audience into the mind of Soo-mi, allowing them to trail the five stages of grief that she is going through after her sister’s careless death.
When it comes to setting, the film is almost entirely grounded within a countryside estate flanked by an iron gate and a lake, except for the mental institution where Soo-mi was admitted. Odd interior details such as a closet full of identical dresses subtly make the ambiance of the house unsettling. Moreover, shadows and figures loom from time to time, unwarranted, until the payoff in the last few scenes which definitely turned the tables. Kim knows how to limit the audience’s field of vision while preparing a good answer for all the questions. All the while, the house itself manifests an architecture of haunting thoughts and memories which explains all the strange occurrences.
The actors and actresses have done a seamless job in executing restraint, given that the stepmother must be the only blatant character as she doesn’t quite care about Soo-yeon’s demise except for the burden it caused her. Moreover, the camerawork exploits dark interiors in contention with sunshine, carefully rhythmic in a slow measure. It is quite risky to pull off such an act as it might bore the audience without even getting to the point of the story. Although the film struggles to introduce an identity of its own, it promises a worthwhile clincher to the intellectual viewer.
Kim’s austere approach has its merits, but it also requires a deserved attention to enjoy the genius of the film. With a well-deserved reputation for breaking the clichés of Asian horror while consciously manipulating the genre, A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) did not come to disappoint.
Because of these reasons, Grace Reviews gives A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) three graves out of five graves.
Do you agree with our review? Comment below.
You may also like our review of the film, The Wailing.