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A Tale of Two Sisters

As far as the horror genre goes, the 2000's will most likely be remembered for foreign horror - particularly Asian horror films. Unlike the American horror films of the past decade, which have mostly been comprised of awful remakes and "torture porn", Asian horror has been coming up with some interesting concepts and films. They may not be the best, let alone great, but they're certainly better than watching something like the sixth sequel to Saw.

The film, based on an old Korean folktale, follows two sisters, Su-mi and Su-Yeong, as they arrive back home to their father and new stepmother. Having been away with an "illness", the sisters find that some drastic changes have been made around the house and that their stepmother, who appears to be quite nice, is actually a very wicked woman. As if dealing with this cruel woman weren't enough, a sinister and ghostly presence has made itself welcome into the house, leaving the sisters to speculate on what's occurred since their departure.

The concept to the film's certainly fascinating. It's a modern-day ghost story, no doubt, and it's leagues above most of what's come out of American horror. The slow lingering and dramatic build-up are excellently executed and it's both fascinating and creepy to watch. The film never delves into cheap territory or "easy scares", instead relying on old-fashioned creepiness to unnerve its viewers. It's the equivalent of listening to someone tell a ghost story by the campfire - it's slow-moving, enrapturing, and the atmosphere is a huge part of the storytelling.

While the atmosphere and concept are truly effective, the characters feel like stereotypes or feel completely useless. The father, for instance, serves no purpose other than to worry, doubt, and be melancholy. Never once does he do anything remotely useful or purposeful, nor does his character ever develop or become altered during the course of the film. He's simply there to fret - and that's that. The sisters provide some form of character, but I wouldn't exactly call either entirely memorable. They were certainly interesting, but they were also archetypes of standard horror tales. I never became too attached with these people as the film kept me at an emotionally cold distance.

That said, though, the cinematography for this film is simply stunning. The environments look beautiful and the camerawork's terrific in its slow-moving and fluid movement. For some reason, the cinematography in this film heavily reminded me of Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, despite the fact that the two films have absolutely nothing in common. Nonetheless, the film is complete eye-candy.

The ending, however, completely infuriated me. It's hard to talk about because if I indicate "spoilers" in a film like this, it's pretty much giving away the fact that there will be a shocking or "surprise" ending. Not only does it insult the viewers' intelligence by explaining every minute detail away, it feels like a cop-out similar to the twists found in M. Night Shyamalan's films.

A Tale of Two Sisters is only a decent horror film. It's got a great atmosphere and visuals, but the characters feel slightly shallow and the plot becomes incredibly convoluted during the second half of the film.



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