Movie Review: The Extraordinary Tale of A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

K-Movie Corner‘s month-long Halloween special continues with yet another hair-raising flick that will surely leave us with no choice but to hold in our pee just to avoid going to the comfort room alone. ㅋㅋㅋ So chingus, make sure your urinary bladders are empty before putting A Tale of Two Sisters on!

Grumpy Ahjumma suggested this to me, and of course I said yes right away! I know the movie for quite a long time already, but it’s my first time watching it so I’m excited and anxious at the same time. But to my surprise, the movie isn’t as scary as what I imagined it to be. It’s actually more saddening than eerie, and though it’s confusing in general, you will appreciate it and understand why it holds an 87% “certified fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes the moment you get the story.

This 2003 psycho-suspense thriller movie focuses on the haunting events at the home of a teenage girl who just got released from a mental institution, her younger sister, their abusive stepmother, and their passive father. It attracted huge attention not only from critics and moviegoers in South Korea, but also across the globe. In fact, it’s the highest-grossing Korean horror film to date and also the first Korean movie to be screened in the U.S. Not only that, it also scored an American remake through the film The Uninvited though it didn’t quite sustain the original’s success.

Fun fact: A Tale of Two Sisters is loosely based on the well-known Joseon-era folktale Janghwa Hongryeon jeon that has been adapted into motion films for several times already.

[SPOILER ALERT!]

Moon Geun-Young in character as Su-yeon in the movie A Tale of Two Sisters

Moon Geun-yeong played the role of the timid younger sister named Su-yeon in this movie. At only 16 years old, the Nation’s Little Sister delivered yet another stunning acting performance just like what she did in Autumn in My Heart (2000) that first catapulted her to immense popularity. She only has a very few lines in this movie, yet her facial expressions whenever she’s confused, sad, or scared are enough for her to convey the emotions well to the audience. In fact, Moon Geun-young earned several Best New Actress nominations from different local award-giving bodies for her performance.

Im Soo-jung in character as Su-mi in the movie A Tale of Two Sisters

On the other hand, Im Soo-jung portrayed the character of the feisty older sister named Su-mi who often gets into heated and violent confrontations with their stepmother. She was institutionalized, but the reason behind it was only implied in the latter part of the movie, which for me gave the film a very interesting plot twist. Her acting here is also a must-see, and proofs are the Best New Actress trophies that she collected from the 2003 Blue Dragon Film Awards and the 2003 Korean Film Awards, among others. She also bagged the International Fantasy Film Best Actress citation from the 2004 Fantasporto Film Festival in Porto, Portugal.

Fun fact: Im Soo-jung originally auditioned for the role of Su-yeon, which eventually went to Moon Geun-young. Jun Ji-hyun was actually PD Kim Jee-woon’s original pick for the role of Su-mi, but she turned it down because she deemed the script as too scary.

I also want to recognize PD Kim Jee-woon’s excellent job here in A Tale of Two Sisters. His slow-paced, less-is-more cinematic technique worked wonders for the film. It only has a few, but memorable, creepy scenes, and just like what I’ve said, it’s confusing in general. But I got to get a grasp of the whole story after a montage in the movie’s dying moments wherein it’s implied that Su-mi hasn’t fully recovered yet from her dissociative identity disorder that’s why she switches back and forth to her two modes: as herself and as her stepmother Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ah). There I understood that she’s actually the one who hurts herself every time she’s in her Eun-joo mode. We also learned that Su-yeon is already dead, and that Su-mi only imagines her as still alive. With all of these twists, I came to a point where I thought that there were really no ghosts shown in this movie, only hallucinations triggered by strong guilt and regret—for Su-mi, because of not being able to help Su-yeon who died a slow and painful death, while for Eun-joo, because of maltreating the two sisters and latching onto their father even if their biological mother was still alive. Do I make sense?

“You know what’s really scary? You want to forget something, totally wipe it off of your mind, but you never can. It can’t go away, you see. And it follows you around like a ghost.”

– Su-mi in Eun-joo mode

Check out some of the creepiest scenes from the movie:

The “period” ghost:

Aunt saw something under the sink:

The ghost in the closet:

Final verdict: Just like how “less is more” makes a woman much sexier, the same makes A Tale of Two Sisters much creepier. 4/5

~All the credit for the videos/stills/GIFs used in this review goes to B.O.M. Film Productions Co.

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