Another Asian horror film has graciously washed up on U.S. shores and you know what that means – yep, chances you’ll see at least one image of an undead female with long, black hair covering her ghoulishly pale face are excellent. And talk of an American remake, of course. No, this isn’t the most original horror film to ever come out of Asia, this one hailing from Korea, but for those looking for something different to watch won’t be totally letdown. It’s how the imagery and subject matter are handled here that make the difference. A real effort has been put forth to do something against the norm and it makes some other filmmakers out there look like they’re sleepwalking.
Two sisters return to their quiet country home after a mysterious stint in the hospital – you’re given just enough info to give you the hint that maybe these girls aren’t exactly playing with a full deck. Once they’re settled in, you realize that maybe they were better off back at the hospital as they now have to put up with their bitchy stepmother, a father who can’t be bothered with their presence and ghosts. Yep, can’t forget about those ghosts…or their long, black hair and ghoulishly pale skin. What the hell’s going on at this house and why are there spooks a poppin’? Well, that’s just the very question that’ll be on your mind throughout most of this two hour film and just when you start to suspect that maybe there isn’t a payoff on the horizon, rest assured, satisfaction is guaranteed. Not that there’s some sort of lame M. Night Shyamalan twist in store that’s geared to kick you in the nuts and leave you reeling after the end credits have finished their crawl. In fact, the twist that is there can be seen coming from quite a distance and is revealed about halfway into the film, but this twist isn’t what the entire film is hung on. Instead, it’s the origin of this story and what events bring about this twist that pack the real punch.
Subtlety. That’s one of the things that really make this one stand out from the pack. “A Tale of Two Sisters” is more of a twisted family drama rather than a shock-filled ghost story. While those shocks and ghosts do exist, they’re very few and far between, but when they strike, they’re major doozies. So don’t expect a non-stop thrill ride, this one takes it nice and slow. Not nice and boring. Nice and slow. It would be nice and boring if the movie didn’t look so damn good – the camera work and art direction are amazing. And that’s the other area where this films stands out – from frame one you know that you’re in for a visual treat and most of those visuals have to do with the house itself, a bright, cheery building you would love to spend a vacation in because it looks like one of the last places you’d ever be chased around by a bunch of monsters in. That definitely adds to the scare factor and unease felt throughout the film. And back to the ghosts and ghouls – yes, we’ve all seen this type of image before, the ghoul with the long, black hair, but NEVER has she looked better or had such a maximum impact than she does in this film. The tension leading up to her scarce on-camera moments are frightening enough, but when you actually see her, it’s the type of terror that all horror moviemakers wish they could achieve. To quote Winston Zeddemore – “I’ve seen s**t that’ll turn you white!”
“A Tale of Two Sisters”, it’s no hack job. It has more impact than your Rings, Grudges, Eyes, Dark Waters…out there and it does it with a minimum of actual on-screen scares. Finally, a real filmmaker gives it like it should be given…and it hurts so good.