A Tale of Two Sisters
(장화, 홍련)

korean horror films

A Tale of Two Sisters (장화, 홍련)
Made in: South Korea
Language: Korean
Director: Kim Ji-Woon
Starring: Im Soo-Jung, Yeom Jeong-Ah, Moon Geun-Young, Kim Kap-Su
Year: 2004

Synopsis: Su-Mi (Im Soo-Jung), a teenage girl, returns home after a long stay at a mental hospital. She's recovering from the shock that came with the death of her mother.

Upon returning to her family's home by the lake, Su-Mi is happily reunited with her younger sister Su-Yeon (Moon Geun-Young). But she has to contend with an evil step-mom (Yeom Jeong-Ah), whom she despises.

And in addition to that, the secluded lake house is haunted! Su-Mi, Su-Yeon, and their stepmother find themselves encountering a series of unexplained and scary events perpetrated by a mysterious, evil entity. With an apparently clueless father (Kim Kap-Su), Su-Mi must protect the vulnerable Su-Yeon from the abusive step-mom and fend off the demonic spirit!

But the truth behind the supernatural occurrences is far more shocking than Su-Yeon could have imagined, and stems from a past that just refuses to go away...

Remarks: Despite a slow start, A Tale of Two Sisters is a smart, tightly written thriller with some pretty hair-raising moments and solid scares. Although some of the visual creepiness is reminiscent of stuff we've already seen in movies like Ju-On and other Asian horror flicks, A Tale of Two Sisters holds its own based on the storyline alone.

Director Kim Ji-Woon holds your attention with smooth camera work and subtle performances. Most of the film takes place in the house, and there's a sense of intimacy that settles in. By the end of the movie, you'll feel as though you know your way around that scary place.

Yeom Jeong-Ah is fantastic as the wicked stepmother, and Im Soo-Jung plays a solid, multidimensional protagonist. The multiple twists are very well-done. You don't see them coming, they take you by surprise, yet they don't seem contrived. Pay close attention to all the dialog if you rent it!

This movie is the latest screen adaptation of a popular Korean folktale called Janghwa Hongreyon-jon, and is slated to be remade by Hollywood in 2009. Personally, I think another Hollywood remake of an Asian horror movie is a pretty bad idea. Kim Ji-Woon's version is fine as it is. Leave it alone!

Who would like this movie: A Tale of Two Sisters is for you if you're a fan of foreign films, psychological thrillers, korean horror movies, and stuff about ghosts. It's a concise, satisfying story that makes an emotional impact without being pretentious.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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