Halloween Month: “A Tale of Two Sisters” (2003)

After discussing the slasher and paranoid horror sub-genre in the review on “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) and the “Monster Movie” and modern-day remakes with the “Fright Night” (1985, 2011) reviews; its now time to look at a different angle when it comes to horror in the shape of Extreme Asian Cinema with the South Korean 2003 film “A Tale of Two Sisters”.

The plot focuses on two sisters Soo-Mi and Soo-Yeon who have been released from a mental institution returning to their family home with their father and strange, unbalanced step-mother. However there is more to this family and their home than meets the eye. What skeletons are lurking in their closet?

“A Tale of Two Sisters” is one of the best Asian Horror films of the past decade by being both impactive and thought-provoking. Granted; the plot or twist isn’t original and could be viewed as a traditional ghost story; however the nature in which its portrayed makes it so unsettling. The film is shot beautifully conveying a gothic style and surrealism as notions of reality are challenged. Visually its very eye-catching through bold colours in comparison to the use of darkness that features in a lot of horror. The audiences is led to believe that they are in a safe environment of the family home demonstrated through flowers and colourful wallpaper, as the plot unravels the mise-en-scene suggests a sense of decay urging the audience to perceive the surroundings in a scarier light. Inspired by folklore and the fairytale; it could be argued that from a Western perspective it is a modern day “Cinderella” in terms of its “Wicked Step-Mother” angle. The majority does take its inspiration from Korean Folklore based on “Janghwa Heungryeon Jeon”. Unlike other films within the Asian cinema genre “Tale of…” doesn’t rely heavily on gore and brutalities for shock value; taking a more subtle approach. Certain imagery was therefore startling and powerful without going overboard. Tension was built up at a gradual pace resulting in effective jump scares. The most frightening part is the psychological aspects as the audience is deeply placed into Soo-Mi’s (played by Su-jeong Lim) psyche. Her performance is both subtle and terrifying, keeping the audience engaged with her story.

A Tale of Two Sisters”  a must-watch this Halloween because its an example of how Asian Horror portrays the genre much better than the Western World of the modern era. It is intelligent, gripping and well-crafted; and does frightening brilliantly without the use of unnecessary shock value. Its also responsible contributing to making K-Horror popular within Horror as a whole.

Hayley Alice Robers.


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