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A Tale of Two Sisters

Our sorrow was conceived long before our birth 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from A Tale of Two Sisters

Based on an old Korean folk tale, this story has been told in film 5 times previously, but each version is very different. This particular version is the acclaimed horror film by Korean director Ji-woon Kim, who has turned his attention from comedies to the genre he loves, horror.

The film starts with two sisters, Su-mi (Lim) and Su-yeon (Mun), arriving home after spending some time in hospital. Their home stands in an idyllic setting; by a large lake with a jetty where the two sisters sit together, dangling their legs into the water. Inside their house however, is oppressive and lifeless; each room is coated in hideous floral wallpaper, everything is formulaic and identical, and each floorboard creaks so no one can move unnoticed. Worst of all the house is occupied by the stepmother Eun-Joo (Yum), whose initial unnatural enthusiasm instantly tells us that she is trouble.

Over time the two girls show their differences, Su-Mi is assertive and stands up to the stepmother whilst Su-yeon is quiet and passive. The girls' father mopes around the house occasionally attempting to relate to Su-Mi until she starts standing up for herself, which he cannot understand. The stepmother is truly disturbing and cares only for her two caged pet birds. She locks Su-yeon in the wardrobe and appears to cut her wrists but all is not as it seems.

With its superb blend of psychological and supernatural horror, you never know what's going to happen next, and the film is full of horrific surprises. The whole atmosphere in the house is so on edge that even an ambiguous line like "I saw a girl under the sink" is hair raising. There are outstanding moments of visual horror too, like the dead mother rising up from under the bed to stand above her sleeping daughter. Kim slowly filters out the truth, knowing how it will affect us; at one point he shakes the camera mimicking someone rapidly shaking their head in disbelief.

With Ringu, The Grudge and this film, Horror has become scary again, and with the midnight showing this will be an experience.

Nick Grills

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Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Spring Term (35mm)