A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

“You mean you don’t already know!?”

words: desmond childs


Two sisters returning home to their parents. But from where? The children are acting strange, both toward their step-mother and father. What happened to Janghwa and Hongryeon?

“I’m sick of this family!”

What we have here is a failure to communicate. The family in this movie is not only a dysfunctional one,  it’s a group of emotionally blocked off people. They all have built up walls: the children have blocked off the parents. The parents have blocked off each other, and the movie blocks off the audience from the secrets held within the creepy mansion.

Sisters, Janghwa and Hongryeon, have clearly survived some sort of traumatic experience. The girls return home, quiet and distant from the parents who try so hard to connect with them. But why? Is it because of something going on in the house? Maybe the supernatural has possessed the mansion and is causing discourse among the members of this family. Or perhaps the problem is a little more relatable to the audience. Divorce? Child abuse? Sexual abuse? Who knows? I will say that the answer is a very jarring one if you’re not use to this type of horror film.

The most interesting thing about this movie to me was the step-mother. At the beginning of this picture we’re lead to believe she is a mother trying desperately to connect with her two step-daughters. She cooks, cleans, and goes out of her way to make them feel comfortable, yet their response is a cold one. As I’m watching the movie and how the children are treating their parents, I actually started to think them silly, and petty, little brats! I know the mysterious incident changed their lives, but I still didn’t think the children needed to be so insubordinate. How silly I feel now, having seen this picture, which will no doubt need multiple viewings or at least a solid, reasonable YouTube comment explanation. It’s a strange, provocative, supernatural, psychological horror movie, guys. However, it’s a horror movie that uses the well-worn tropes of the Asian horror flick, not the American horror flick. So less “jumping at doors slamming” and more gazing upon a film-set built of the nightmares you had as a child. The atmosphere is tense and weird, with characters often staring at each other without speaking at all. Again, it all makes sense at the end. At least to me it did.

I’d recommend it to the fans of horror stories, obviously. It’s a pretty well crafted piece, shifting ruggedly through fits of “calm and eerie” to “rowdy and reckless”. It’s a fun experience, but I have to be honest. I had forgotten much of what occurred only a day after watching it. What does that tell you?

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