Tag Archives: A Tale of Two Sisters

Whispering Corridors

In returning to one of my favorite genres of horror, the Asian horror film, my girlfriend and I watched the first in a string of popular South Korean horror films set in the Asian all girls high school setting. In this 1998 film, right after the restraints raised after the censorship that held down filmmaking in Korea, this movie, at its best point, raised issues about keeping down a populace of people. The physical and emotional abuse felt at this school of depressed teens created an environment for horror. Not that this film is based on fact, but this dated film from a country barely scraping the surface of horror is a good first attempt.

Let’s summarize. This movie focuses around the lives of three senior students, Young Jae-Yi, Lim Ji-Oh, and Kim Jung-Sook, three differing students who encounter a hanging suicide outside of their school on the first day of classes.

I quite enjoy this, although it's from the fifth one...

Discovering this recently deceased teacher brings up issues of what brought her to this end and who may be responsible. In the same vein of a former student’s death at the school, Jin-Ju, these girls must discover exactly what happened through a journal of Ju-Jin and her secret female lover in a school of taboos. The end may leave you shocked, but who knows? I didn’t really understand what was happening until it was explained to me.

The topic of this movie was quite interesting, but, for a first attempt it was a mediocre delivery on just exactly what was being examined in South Korean film. I’m proud to say for the South Korean population that, since then, there have been quite a few good Korean films that I am a huge fan of. (The Host, The Good Bad and Weird, and A Tale of Two Sisters – check out the review!) To discount this one as just a fluke would be folly, as its just a first attempt in what has turned into a long line of success. The franchise as a whole, I’m not sure about, but I will give this movie the review it deserves.

This is about as scary as it gets.

It’s been a while since I watched this, but there were a lot of genuinely good lines that stood out to me in this film. I would say this derived from a good script, and that’s probably where the creativity started. The journal and its function in the story created a voyeuristic look into the lives of the other students in the school that I found darkly interesting. The issue of lesbian love and experimenting in an all girls school creates a comment on Korean society and the repressed feelings of the masses. In what I could only imagine as a delving into the mind of a deranged sociopath, this movie follows two lines of plot. That of the past and present. When the two collide through the survival of a student lover, the movie takes on the horrific twist that leaves a jarring, supernatural feel that at the same time as it disorients, it poetically ends the film.

I can’t really comment on the acting as usual with a film with subtitles, but I suspect the acting couldn’t be half bad. The youth of the movie could have struggled, but coming from a society with strict schooling, it could be a releasing of some pent up energy. The suspense lags from time to time, but the dark and sinister nature of the film really carries it along. The ending, as I said, is quite strange. If you don’t see it at first, you may need to watch the last 15 minutes again. Otherwise, as it did with me, it may pass over your head. So enjoy, if you can, and give this first in a long string of suspense/horror films from the good ole South Korea a chance. I’d give it a solid 6.2 out of 10 for a first attempt.

The evil minds of Korea at work.


I Saw the Devil: South Korea Does it Again!

So recently in the past few years, I’ve been really getting into South Korean films. And not just horror, but action, drama, and

Byung-hun Lee. Complete badass.

suspense/thriller. It all started with The Host (starring my favorite South Korean actor, Kang-ho Song) and has branched into similar movies by director Jee-Woon Kim. And this includes The Good, The Bad, The Weird, A Tale of Two Sisters, The Uninvited, and A Bittersweet Life. And I have just recently added I Saw the Devil, Je-Woon Kim’s latest masterpiece. And I loved every minute of it.

This latest film by Je-Woon Kim is a suspense/thriller with a few elements of twisted gore and horror, the perfect mix if you ask me. Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee), a special agent/detective, has just recently lost his wife was to a brutal murder, not knowing she was pregnant. Upon discovery, Soo-hyeon decides to pursue this serial murderer and get revenge. Once he finds Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi), Soo-hyeon goes hardcore after Kyung-chul with a fury and vengeance that almost seems unfair.

Using his secret agent skills and the aide of a tracking device, Soo-hyeon proceeds to beat the living crap out of Kyung-chul and then admitting him to a local hospital after every beat-down. With no idea why this is happening, a cat and mouse game comes about for the ages. Who will prevail?

Min-sik Choi. Sick and fantastic.

There are some freaking great aspects to this movie. First of all, the mind game that’s created echoes another film that Min-sik Choi starred in, Oldboy. Without a rhyme or reason to this menacing, violent game, people are killed left and right in pursuit of justice and cold-blooded revenge. What’s nice though, is that there’s a clearly defined line between good and evil. You know for certain that Kyung-Chul is evil and Soo-hyeon is good. What changes is the blurred line between the two and who becomes more evil in the end, and also, more importantly, who has the last laugh.

With the pain and emotion behind the actors, both for different purposes, the hidden killer inside

Thank you for a fantastic movie, Jee-Woon Kim.

everyone is unleashed and survival becomes a determining factor after all. With sick and subtle gory scenes, an occasional bare hands brawl, and even some hack and slash action, this movie goes places where normal cops can’t go. To bring in the bad guy and exact your revenge, just how far would you go to do the deed? A definite 10 out of 10.


A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I thought I’d come back since I’ve settled into classes (at college) and I just watched a fantastic foreign horror film. For my girlfriend’s birthday we sat in front of my computer and just watched A Tale of Two Sisters. First impression? Stylistically and theatrically terrifying. It’s something about the Asians, but their movies are at least 100 times more terrifying than ours. (Probably why we steal and remake all of them in a less horrifying way.)

Now I can’t get into specifics, but this story is about two sisters. Obvious. And a dad (sad), and a stepmom (evil, of course). The deaths of the past come back to haunt the family as they try to settle down into a normal rhythm in their elegantly Western beach house. (Strange.) My girlfriend Kim is a big fan of Asian horror movies, and I find myself intrigued in how foreign horror films seem to capture horror in a different way, but one not too far from our own concept of fear.

This movie, stylistically, was fantastic. Every shot seemed crafted for a purpose, for a reveal, for the ultimate experience in tension. Every shot, from the pans, to the turn around handhelds, to even the still shots, left me breathless in their scope of capturing the emotion on screen, without words. This, coupled with the seemingly wordless actions of the actors was literally phenomenal. You get a sense of the stepmother’s (Jung-ah Yum) anger and frustration with her new family, and the desperation of the daughters(Su-jeoung Lim & Geun-Young Moon), all beyond the control of the helpless father (Kap-su Kim). With every new scene, you are asked without words to figure out for yourself exactly what just happened and what it means in the bigger picture of the film. Some may find this style to be too confusing and frustrating, but the ambiguity should leave most viewers with their own interpretation, a nice way to end films for me.

All in all, this movie was quite a good film and I’d definitely recommend it for true vintage, thriller film buffs. The director is fantastic and his idea of story goes far beyond what you see on the screen. For another good Ji-woon Kim film, definitely check out The Good, the Bad, the Weird. (Great acting and action.) I might even review that one soon. And for A Tale of Two Sisters American, not so good counterpart, check of The Uninvited (2009) featuring Emily Browning and Elizabeth Banks. I give A Tale of Two Sisters a 9 out of 10.