Asian horror films, a lot of them, anyway, have this awesome way of messing with your mind. Basically, nothing is ever as it seems, and the movie will probably seem confusing until the very end when everything becomes clear and you realize how great the film you just watched was.
Jee-Woon Kim’s A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) definitely fits this mold. I have to say, I was utterly confused for most of this movie, until the end, and then I couldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was. The plot is rich with foreshadowing that all comes to make sense at the end and there is just enough violence to make this a well-rounded horror film.
After being released from a mental hospital after a tragic and traumatizing accident involving their mother, sisters Su-Mi (Su-Jeong Lim) and Su-Yeon (Geun-Young Moon) return home to live with their father (Kap-Su Kim) and stepmother (Jung-Ah Yum). It’s obvious that Su-Mi and Su-Yeon dislike their new stepmother, just as much as she hates them. A series of disturbing events occur leading up to a fight between Su-Mi and her stepmother.
At the end of the fight, it is revealed that Su-Mi’s stepmother has not been at the house for the past few days and Su-Yeon has been dead since before Su-Mi went to the mental hospital. All of the conversations and interactions with her stepmother and Su-Yeon were the result of Su-Mi’s schizophrenic mind.
The best part of A Tale of Two Sisters is watching it again after you know the ending. It’s fun to see all the hints and clues that were dropped throughout the film leading up to the climax. One example of this is a scene where Su-Mi’s stepmother gets into a fight with Su-Yeon and locks her in a wardrobe. Su-Mi eventually finds the distraught Su-Yeon and apologizes, explaining she did not hear Su-Yeon’s cries for help.
This alludes to the event that caused Su-Mi’s schizophrenia, which is revealed in flashback at the end of the film. Su-Mi’s mother, upset over her husband’s remarriage, hangs herself in Su-Yeon’s wardrobe. When Su-Yeon finds her mother’s body, she shakes her in an attempt to wake her; this causes the wardrobe to fall over on Su-Yeon, crushing and suffocating her.
Su-Mi’s stepmother finds Su-Yeon and her mother, but leaves the room quickly, as she passes Su-Mi on her way out, she warns Su-Mi that she will regret something that she will not be able to take back. Su-Mi leaves the house to go on a walk, not knowing her mother and sister are dead.
This is just one example of the foreshadowing sprinkled throughout the film, when watched in retrospect, makes more sense than the first viewing. A Tale of Two Sisters is wonderfully written and delivers some good creeps and scares along the way. If you want to get into Korean horror films, or Korean cinema in general, A Tale of Two Sisters is a must.
You can also watch my review of A Tale of Two Sisters down below.