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VINE VOICEon 15 December 2007
Described as the 'most frightening film since Ring' and a mix of psychological horror, ghost story and drama, A Tale of Two Sisters is a truly complex film with great depth, good performances, technological perfection, and a few scares. In truth it is vastly different from Ringu, but naturally with every Asian Horror movie featuring a long-haired, scary looking girl comparisons will be made. True, Ringu is the master, but this is of an entirely different breed. If you are a fan of Ringu, Asian horror movies in general then this is definitely one to see before the Hollywood remake, but be warned- it is difficult the first time round, and will likely not be what you expected.

The film begins in a psychiatric hospital, a doctor tries to get a young girl, Soo-Yeun to explain what has happened in her past. We then apparently flash back and meet two sisters, Soo-yeun and Soo-mi, their father and step-mum. The sisters are very close, but they have no respect for their father, and hate their step-mum. We do not know why. Soo-mi is quieter, Soo-yeun is protective of her and will not let any harm come to her. They have returned from a mental hospital but we do not know why. There is a coldness in the house, and a lack of understanding. The father seems passive, unable to understand his kids or relate to his partner, while the step-mum is very strange, ranging from cruel to hysterically happy. Soon strange things begin to happen in the house, noises, frightening ghosts appear, or perhaps they are hallucinations. The whole house is affected, but we do not know if it an evil power in the house, the threatening demeanour of the step-mum, or if it is all just a mirage. The parents cannot stand the behaviour of the kids anymore, and a confrontation ensues where we finally learn the startling, emotional truth.

For the majority of the film, the viewer will have little idea as to what is going on. Unfortunately this does not always work for the best- true the plot keeps us guessing, but there are perhaps too many twists to confuse us. This is deliberate of course, and we get a true sense of the madness which can come from guilt and anger, although it may be too overwhelming for some. This is a pity as it is a very good film, and must be watched right to the end before any questions are really answered. However, if you enjoy many twists and being kept in a loop then few films are better than this. Admittedly some, including myself will be taken in by the tag-line, by other reviews, and will expect another terrifying time. However, the scary Ringu/Ju-on style scares are few, and the distance between them is long, ensuring frustration for those who want to be scared. When they come though they are intense, and will get the hairs on your arms reaching for the sky. Those are the only complaints I can have with the film, and for a fan of clever films they are minor.

The film's depth is unquestionable, amazing when considering it was based on a simple, popular Korean folk tale. We do not know what will happen next, or why, and we are left thinking about it for a long time after it is over. Luckily the DVD has much explanatory documentaries and interviews which will help. The music is extremely good, mixing the noises which worked to such great effect in Ringu, with touching string numbers to add to the emotional impact. The camera-work is breathtaking, with many innovative angles which will have you on edge, and the tension created is admirable. The editing is deserving of much respect as we get many quick flashbacks, false ones and true ones to past events which may or may not have happened in the way they are shown. The film looked beautiful, and the scenery is haunting. Lastly, the performances by the small cast are each excellent. Geon-yeung Mun is impressive as Soo-yeon, painfully showing the madness she feels. Kap-su Kim as the father is vacant and cold, seems to have lost any emotions he once had, and tired by all around him. Su-jeong Lim as Soo-mi is very sympathetic, and although she has little to say, conveys everything with her eyes well. The stand-out though is Jung-ah Yum as the step-mum, her wildly changing face and actions are astounding and she is genuinely creepy. We are never certain of how she will act, but know that every second she is on screen is a marvel. To summarise, definitely see this if you are a fan of Asain movies as it is a masterpiece of depth and direction, but there are more immediately scary films out there in the same vein. This will have a lasting effect on you though. This is near perfect thriller, and an above average horror.

This special edition has tonnes of extra features, from deleted scenes, to interviews with the cast, and an in depth documentary with the director. These all prove interesting after watching the film, and offer some explaination to the events of the film and to the film making process. If only all DVDs were presented like this...
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on 16 April 2005
Sadly this film has been much neglected in the West - a real tragedy as it is one of the best psychological/horror/suspense films I have ever seen.
This Korean movie (based on an ancient folk-tale) is masterful -and that is no exaggeration. The acting is superb, and the direction outstanding.
One viewing may perhaps leave the viewer a little confused (I found myself checking out the internet movie database forums in order to fully understand the beautiful and complex film I had just watched) - multiple viewings are strongly recommended as it works on so many levels. This is no ill-thoughtout slasher horror movie - indeed it puts many other better known titles to shame, this is one of those very rare films that gives you so much more. Every scene is carefully crafted to add not only to the tension and emotion of the picture, but also to the symbolism that flows through the entire piece.
This honestly is a true classic of modern cinema. The DVD also comes with many great extras and hidden bonus features.
Buy 'A Tale of Two Sisters' before it becomes yet another great Asian film that is left hidden behind a shallow big-budget remake!
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on 12 March 2007
A tale of two sisters is a very fascinating film, which definitly needs several viewings, this is so you can place more pieces of the story together at the end. Visually I find that the films strong colours, in the home of the sisters like the bedrooms,kitchen...etc, gives it a great atmosphere, which is quite heavy and moody. There are lots of creepy and eerie moments and I found the actors did a great job in this film and loved the twists! Only thing is I wished that there was a little more of an explination at the end, but that is what makes it very different from other films, all the the twists keep you guessing what is really going on. It's definitly worth a watch and I recommend it to anyone who likes a plot full of surprises! It's a truely interesting film!!!
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on 3 October 2004
I caught this film in the far east last year and found it one of the few films in my life that has had me wanting to look away (the other was Salem's Lot). It is a gothic ghost story with a complex twisting plot and some of the most psychologically disturbing scenes I could imagine. In many Hollywood films, I get the feeling directors are too afraid to scare the audience. Images are often fleeting or tongue-in-cheek to reassure the viewer all is okay.
Here, I found the images presented were haunting and relentless. The acting was genuinely strong by the girls and the sullen parents.
I can only imagine it will be copied in the US with less effect so I urge you to see this spooky classic.
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on 13 April 2006
First I must point out that I found A Tale of Two Sisters to be a very moving and involved phycological thriller. The fact that others compare this movie with the likes of The Ring and The Grudge etc etc is quite worrying as watching this film with the expectation of jumping out of your seat with fear every few minutes will leave you disappointed. I have no idea, other than the possibibility of riding on the back of international publicity that The Ring received, why the producers of this film would compare the two.

The story is complicated and clever, I would definitely recommend watching the film a few times after the first viewing just to spot how everything fits together and especially how the characters interact. The explanation on the DVD and various articles on the plot I have read online do not help you to understand the plot, rather confuse it more so, the simplest and most satisfying way is to concentrate and watch everything fall into place on the second or third viewing.

Maybe I'm exaggerating the complexity of the plot(now I think about it I am), but it's clear from other reviews and the reactions of people I have shown the film to that some people can't appreciate a film unless everything is made crystal clear at the end by a narrator.

Anyway, more about the film. It's a dark setting as far as films go and makes for tense moments throughout the film. Some may find the film abit slow and plodding but I would urge you to take solace in the plot which doesn't feel slow after you know what's going on and the excellent directing which is very artful and pleasing to the eye, especially the transistions between order and chaos that the director portrays so well.

In conclusion, a disturbing look into the human phyche with a brilliant plot but not for the action/gore generation. More an arty thriller that can be watched several times and doesn't tire easily, definitely a must see in my book, you can have the ring anyday, I'll take this.
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on 15 February 2006
A Tale Of Two Sisters, ah, where to begin? Great horror films have been few and far between of recent years. We've had The Sixth Sense, we've had The Ring, and now we have this (okay, it's not exactly new, but it's the latest great in the genre). It's based around the Korean folk tale, and is about two sisters who, after the death of their mother, are sent to a mental insitute. What they come home to though, is nowhere near your average family life.
Both them, and their step-mother, witness horrific goings-on in the house where they live. Their dead mother appearing in haunting visions, ghouls entering rooms where they sleep and pulling off their bed sheets, and ghostly forms hiding under the sink. Are the girls really mentally sound? Are they playing tricks on their step-mother? Or is there some other sinister force at work? You'll be asking these questions throughout, and it feeds you information that makes you change your conclusions constantly.
It definitely leaves an impact on you, and you'll find the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end whenever you walk into a dark room again. It doesn't pertain to usual western horrors, where more violence equals more horror. It's very much in the same vein as the Sixth Sense, but has, in my opinion, an ending far less predictable and far more distubing. The psychological aspects of 'A Tale Of Two Sisters', truly are top-notch. Creepy, mysterious, well-acted, and a great storyline. If you want those qualities, then look no further.
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VINE VOICEon 22 September 2011
I've never been a big fan of films especially Hollywood blockbusters, they also seem so false, but I have really been enjoying watching Korean horror/thriller flicks. You say "horror film" and you instantly come up with images of blood and guts being sprayed all over the place but the Korean's take a different tack, they prefer to use very clever cinematography, wonderful scripts and stunning actors, combined they know how to draw you in keep you glued to the story.

I had never seen any of the Ring movies before and I took chance on the original first and thoroughly enjoyed it, highly recommended on the back of that came Tale of Two Sisters. The story essentially revolves around two sisters returning home after a long time away, they return to their father's house and their much disliked step-mother. Immediately on their first night home all sorts of paranormal things start to happen and the household slowly starts to become more chaotic as each person's sanity appears to unravel. The end of the film I found extremely moving and very sad when you finally manage to piece every thing back together and understand why what happened, has happened.

The Korean horror flicks are never gory and quite often not very scary. I don't understand why people bang on about them being scary, maybe I have become so desensitized but the few I have watched are no more scary than an episode of the X-Files. What they do have is the stunning ability to draw you in and keep you watching. There is the occasional "bump in the night" type scene, but it's the story and very careful and minimal use of lighting and sets that are used to their fullest. The Hollywood filmmakers and so called mega-stars should all be packed off to Korea for a year and taught how to make proper films of this calibre!

If you enjoyed the original Ring, then get this immediately. I will certainly be scouring the Amazon listings for more Korean thrillers, they are simply the best!
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on 25 June 2007
I thought nothing could ever top something as memorable as Miike's Audition, but this one gets really close. I think the movie should be categorized as some sort of mini-masterpiece. This is a cut above other movies of the genre: genuinely suspenseful, intelligent, brilliantly acted and visually stunning. The film tells the story of two sisters living with their seemly emotionally unstable stepmother (Jung-ah Yum gives an award caliber performance) and a well-intentioned, but distant father. The family is one big ticking bomb, ready to explode at any given time. Adding gasoline to the fire, the girls may or may not be seeing paranormal manifestations. If you've seen other modern Asian horror films, I don't have to tell you that nothing in the film is as it appears to be. At some point, there is even a fabulous twist that would make David Lynch very proud.

Most of the previous reviewers has advice to watch this film twice which I too agree. Simply because you'll get a greater affect, almost as much out of watching it when you know the twist than you do from watching it the first time. While there are elements of the film that are culturally specific, the underlying themes are all too universal - guilt, anger, loss, madness and retribution. All of these are handled superbly by Lim Su-jeong as Su-mi, the lead character. Also worthy of particular mention is Yum Jung-ah, who delivers a deeply creepy and unsettling performance as the stepmother.

While it has its scary moments, this is not really a horror flick as most people would imagine it. It's more a psychological suspense story with an element of mystery. It grips you from the start and will keep you guessing until the end - and possibly beyond! If you are a fan of the surreal and macabre, or you just simply enjoy dark fairy tales, this is a film for you.
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A Tale of Two Sisters is billed as a horror movie, but please don't confuse this fascinating, multi-layered story with the sort of simple-minded horror films coming out of Hollywood. The stigma attached to horror movies in the West doesn't apply when you talk about Asian horror - solely because Asian filmmakers continue to develop horror as an art form built upon subtlety, complexity, and the deepest of human emotions. A Tale of Two Sisters is high art indeed. There are some genuinely creepy scenes in this movie, but that is not where the true horror of the story lies - and that is what makes this such a mesmerizing movie.
This isn't a simple tale, as it starts you out feeling a little unbalanced and compels you to figure out what is really going on as reality and fantasy begin to blur more and more. You might be confused at more than one point. And then, once you've had your Aha moment, the film continues to pull you down dark, twisted paths. This is truly an unforgettable film that virtually compels you to watch it through a second time. Then, if you still have questions, there are two distinct commentaries on the DVD (I only watched the one with the director and the actresses who played the two sisters - but it was everything a commentary should be).
When you see this film - and you really should see it - it's important that you leave your Westernized expectations behind you. This isn't about things that go bump in the night - although, as I've said, several scenes are deliciously creepy. This is a tragic and exceedingly human story about the love between two sisters, terrible events that shatter the lives of their whole family, and the debilitating effect that regret can have on a person. I am not even going to describe the plot of the film here because it should be seen without any expectations by the viewer. The film is so complex and beautifully structured that every little thing that happens is important. That's why a second viewing leaves you even more impressed than you were after the first viewing. Kim Jee-Woon is a true craftsman of the art of moviemaking, and young Su-jeong Lim and Geun-yeong Mun are really quite amazing in their portrayal of the tragic sisters.
Some seem to find the film too confusing, and I'm not sure why this is. It's true that the story invokes flashbacks at times, but there are plenty of clues along the way - and the main revelations are quite forcefully presented. In a sense, the movie moves forward in order to take you backward, back to a beginning in which all things are made clear. It's a rich and amazingly moving way to tell a story, especially when that story resonates with as much emotional power as this one.
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on 12 April 2005
Wow, what a film. Mind boggling? Yes i agree with above reviews watch more than once. If you understand this first time your're either a fibber or have a very large brain. I really jumped at one point (despite knowing what would happen from clues) which has only happened a handful of times before whilst watching a film.(no, not scooby doo). You will be on the verge of expectance throughout the film which in itself is enough to make you hit the artexing a few times.
The acting in the film by the two main girls will leave you astounded. It will make you realise the hollywood awards given to 'actors' are basically based upon a substance i care not to mention. (scooby produces quite a bit). More films like this please.
Honestly folks watch it. Make sure it's dark. When you have watched it just remember to unscramble your brain and have heated discussions and disagreements with the person/persons who saw it too!!!!
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