Ji Woon Kim’s horror film is a modern-day story inspired by the folktale of a wicked stepmother persecuting her husband’s daughters Rose and Lotus. Su-mi comes home from the hospital to resume hostilities with her stepmother Eun-ju. The reasons as to why she was there are uncertain but develop as the films progresses. A mental deficiency seems evident and she’s treated as if she needs to get over, and work through, this disorder. Her younger sister Su-yeon seems more intimidated by Eun-ju’s icy graciousness, but Su-mi is openly at war. Their father appears oblivious to the intensity of the emotions swirling around him. As the girls battle their evil stepmother occurrences inside of the house start to happen, something seemingly supernatural. Things go from bad to worse until the day Eun-ju loses it, drags the screaming Su-yeon to a bedroom closet and locks her in, but not all is exactly as it seems.
A Tale of Two Sisters (aka Janghwa, Hongryeon) is an excellent little horror film by writer/director Ji Woon Kim with amazing tension and dread inducing creepiness. The camera takes on a life of its own, pulling the audience in and trapping us with every frame. The beautiful visuals, along with the stunning cinematography, put this film on a whole other level. It’s really a delight to watch. Everything seems to come to life and give off such a vibe that you get sucked right in from the opening frame, which is a feat in of its self for the filmmakers. It helps the audience get right into it early on, which is key for this type of film. Ji Woon Kim did an excellent job of making the house a place of sheer terror. Every step the kids took, every corner they turned, every door they opened, every single little thing was masked with unadulterated dread. The thought of, “something is in this house,” was not only felt by the kids, but it was felt by the audience also.
The acting is surprisingly good, especially by the younger girls. They made us feel for them. As we follow Su-mi and Su-yeon through the film we want to help them as much as they want to help each other. We want to figure things out, because we actually care. Something else that gives this film so much power is that we care about the characters and what happens to them next. The haunting score that accompanied the film was superb, only adding to the already established creep factor. The technical aspects work along with the creative aspects, they mould together brilliantly, something that seems hard to accomplish these days. The story flows in a very linear fashion, that is, until the last half an hour or so. The way it’s done strongly works to the films advantage, keeping it interesting and fresh, while staying true to what we’ve seen. Some of the more intense scenes, along with the shocking visuals will leave your jaw on the ground. There were a few scenes that made my jaw drop, literally. It’ll make you uneasy, it’ll make you tense, it’ll make you worried, but most of all, it will scare and creep you to the bone! Everything that makes a good horror film can be found in this film. Everything that makes a great film in general, can be found in this film.
If you’re a fan of Asian cinema this is a must see. Even if you’re not a fan, or haven’t seen many Asian films you need to see this. This film is something horror fans, in general, need to see. Once I got home and crept down to my cold, dark basement I found myself looking over my shoulder. My heart raced as I turned corners. It was creepy. A film hasn’t done that to me in a long time. Do yourself a favor and check this out as soon as possible. The remake rights have already been snagged by Hollywood, but I can’t imagine a remake being as scary as this film is. A gem has been found in the rough.