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Movie Review: A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)


Last night when I arrived home from yet another long day at work, I was excited to find that my screener copy of A Tale of Two Sisters had arrived. A Tale of Two Sisters is a Korean horror flick, supposedly more creepy than gruesome, similar in style to The Others or The Sixth Sense. I was really looking forward to seeing it, so after a quick dinner my wife and I shut off all the lights, slipped it in the DVD player, and hit the play button.

The very first thing that grabbed my attention was the atmosphere that this film was able to get across. The cinematography, sound effects, and acting made even a straightforward scene of a girl sitting at a table in a white room seem extra-creepy. The girl just sits there, with her head looking down and her hair hiding her face as a man questions her about some event in her past. She says nothing, and we are left wondering just exactly what has happened to this girl. It's a wonderful opening scene which really sets the mood for the whole movie.

We are then taken to the outside of an old, haunted-looking house where we are introduced to two sisters, the elder Su-mi and the younger Su-yeon. We get to see how close they are, and find out that they used to live in this house before their unnamed illness required them to stay at the hospital. But now they're better, and Eun-joo, their step-mother, seems very excited to finally have them home... however neither sister shows any sign of caring. In fact, Su-mi seems to seriously dislike her for some reason.

Now, all of this takes quite a while to get set up. My wife was already out cold, and I'm sorry to say that I had actually gotten bored by this point. Other than the excellent visual style, there really isn't much going on here to hold your attention. Thankfully, we are shortly thereafter treated to several scenes of uber-creepiness, which is what these types of movies are all about. I won't go into any details, as I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone, but let's just say that this film does a great job at presenting a disturbing and chilling environment. There's no way you won't react in some way or another to what you're seeing on screen.

There is no doubt that this production has done a lot of things right. There is much here to praise, such as cinematography, acting, music, sound effects, lighting, and sets, but there is unfortunately one major drawback to this film... after all the twists, turns, and shocks, and revelations... once you finally reach the end and everything has been revealed... you'll still be sitting there in the dark wondering just what the hell is going on.

Normally this is where I would start listing all of the instances that still make no sense to me, probably with some sarcastic comments thrown in, but I can't really do that without giving away at least some of the twists. And then I would tell you all about some of the really cool scenes that would just freak you out and make my wife close her eyes and turn away, but again I can't do that without revealing something that you should really see for yourself.

Suffice to say, if you are a fan of the slow, eerie-type horror flicks, then you should definitely check this one out. Yes, they probably could have cut out about 20 minutes of this film... and yes, by the end you'll be scratching your head just like that one month when you were all out of dandruff shampoo... but there is still a lot here to enjoy. If you're still not convinced, then you should head on over to the official website where you can read a short synopsis and check out the trailers.

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Movie Review: DVD Release Update

The DVD package Tartan Asia Extreme has released of A Tale of Two Sisters is really quite nice. It contains two discs, the first of which contains the movie... obviously... I mean have you ever seen a DVD release where the first disc was extra features and the second disc was the movie? Anyway, as I was saying, along with the film, the first disc contains the two optional audio commentaries, one with the director and cast, and the other with the director, cinematographer, and lighting director.

I think the decision to produce both commentaries was definitely a smart move. It seems like fewer and fewer DVD commentaries actually have the stars talking about their experiences with the project, instead choosing to go with some assistant director, one of the extras, and a grip. Hello?! I wanna hear about all the different experience the cast went through! And then it's easy to see why they did the other commentary with the people who were responsible for giving the film it's stunning visual atmosphere.

The second disc contains all the extra features, the behind the scenes footage, the interviews with cast members, some deleted scenes, post production documentaries, a psychiatrist's perspective, an the one thing I was really looking forward to hearing, an analysis by the director. Unfortunately, that analysis didn't give me the closer I was looking for, which was an understanding of exactly what was going on in the flick. You know what his response to the claims that the movie was very confusing? Basically he said it was intended to be confusing.

Yeah, well after I saw the film I did understand why the movie was supposed to seem bit confusing while it was taking place, but the thing is that it is still confusing when you get to the end. There's no "Ohhh!!! That's cool!" or "Ahhh, I see what's been going on...", there's just "Uhhh.... what?" while you sit there wondering if maybe you fell asleep during some part and they's why it didn't make sense.

So that part was a little disappointing, but it doesn't take away from all nice extras that are packed inside.

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