Saturday, August 9, 2008

More proof that the Koreans are better at this than we are.

The hamster very capably covered this one already. He dissected the relationship of American horror movie remakes to their Japanese/Korean ancestors, and he did it with style. He so rightly skewered American movie audiences and their short attention spans. So why do this movie again if the hamster did such a good job? Because, quite frankly, this movie is so good that it deserves two reviews.

I’m gonna try to do this with minimal spoilers, but that may be difficult, so be forewarned.

The movie opens with a young girl in an asylum/sanitarium. Not an unfamiliar way to open a horror movie. The next thing we see is the young girl and her sister coming home to their father and stepmother, who live in an idyllic lakeside country house. The two sisters spend a few quiet minutes on the dock, dangling their feet in the lake, enjoying some peace and quiet. Then they are summoned back inside the house. The peace and quiet is over.

What follows is two hours of life for the girls under their wicked stepmother and impotent father. We get beatings, children locked in wardrobes (sort of a horrible anti-Narnia experience), rotting fish in the refrigerator, apparent epileptic seizures, ghosts, and much, much more. To get in to the plot in any kind of depth would do a disservice to anyone who would watch this. Could you describe the plot of MEMENTO without giving much away? How about THE SIXTH SENSE? It’s the same thing with A TALE OF TWO SISTERS.

A TALE OF TWO SISTERS is a film that wraps itself in mystery and horror – but not the sort of horror that we, as American audiences, have come to understand. This is not the horror of boogeymen or slashers or gigantic monsters. The things that go bump in the night in this movie are the truly horrible things. This is the stuff of generational secrets, of buried terror that is rightly straining to the surface.

Ji-woon Kim dexterously directs A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. He weaves this story in such a way that there is, on one hand, constant doubt in the viewer’s mind as to what it real and what isn’t, while on the other hand, he so rigidly and lovingly establishes the story that, upon multiple viewings, the entire picture becomes clear. Also, a quick note about the young lead, Su-jeong Lim, who plays a multi-faceted Soo-mi. She carries the film on her back as well as any actress (or actor, for that matter) that I’ve yet seen. This is the kind of work that garners awards.

This is a movie that requires much from the viewer. It’s as much work as it is entertainment. There are no pat explanations for what transpires, only more and more questions. I found myself wishing that I was watching with another person so I could discuss it in depth. It creates an experience that continues long after the movie’s over. It’s a film that needs more than just two hours of your life. I felt the same way after this as I did in college as an English major after reading Stephen Crane or John Irving. Fortunately then, I was able to sit around a classroom and discuss for hours on end (and get college credit – what a racket).

I don’t have any trouble saying that this is the best horror film that I’ve seen in a long time. For me, it ranks with the greats – THE OMEN, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE WICKER MAN. It’s a difficult movie to do justice in a short review – it deserves a thesis. It certainly deserves a watch. I recommend you do so. A TALE OF TWO SISTERS gets five bloody floorboards out of five.


the hamster said...

john's wife's husband -

this review feels like my birthday come early. loved this. loved your ideas and your huge appreciation of this film. i really loved this. showed it to the wife and vowed to own it on dvd one day. you are right: this films demands in a way that few films demand. so, so good.

one point: i highly agree with you that su-jeong lim was good - but the stepmother in this movie took every scene to the next level. she honestly made me feel nervous. i scratched at my skin a few times watching that lady. these two actresses sharing a scene together tops the perfect pairing of imperial stout and mint chocolate chip ice cream. amazing. these ladies were purely amazing.

thanks for taking my recommendation. i have to confess that i have never seen THE WICKER MAN. will look for it soon.

John Barber said...

Be sure that you watch the original WICKER MAN with Christopher Lee. Only watch the Nicolas Cage version if you're in need of a few dozen laughs.

the hamster said...

john - i also just noticed that you have only given two films on this site 5 something-or-anothers out of 5: this film and WALL-E. the next closest film is BE KIND REWIND with 4.5 out of 5. can i express to you, after our differences on THE HAPPENING and FUNNY GAMES, how stoked i am that one of your 5 point votes was my recommendation. this sordid affair may just work yet.