The Horror Honeys: Every family has its dark secrets.

Every family has its dark secrets.

A Guest Honey K-Horror Review by Evey

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

We’re the perfect family. Right?
I’ve had the explicit pleasure of having found some real horror gems through Asian horror. One might say this obsession - er, fascination - began at a young age during my time in Japan, when American films were not so available at the cinemas. They were the only films my parents found suitable for an eight year-old, and so the love affair began. 

A Tale of Two Sisters was directed by a maestro of horror, Kim Jee-woon. It is a psychological horror film that roots itself in the primal ideas of sanity and family, and what happens when both of these ideas are fractured.

The synopsis is simple - A teenager returns home from a spell in an institution and forces her family to deal with the tragedies that caused her absence.

Simple enough, right? A family torn apart by grief and death, and possibly might be haunted by something. Secrets are exposed, lies are discovered, and the fabric of what truly makes us feel safe at night unravels. 

If you are new to Asian horror, I don’t suggest you begin with this film - Asian storytelling is non-linear, and does not follow five-act structure or Western (read - Joseph motherfucking Campbell, google him) storytelling. This film in particular sets you off on a path without letting you know where you’ve started, and only completes the circle (time is a flat circle, eh?) at the end of the film. This can be particularly annoying for people who are used to only Western horror films, and throw remotes - or shoes - at the screen when the story doesn’t unfold that way. (You know who you are.) 

With that being said, if you’ve rolled with Asian horror long enough, you don’t need the warning. Patience is truly a virtue when watching this film. It is atmospheric and dreadful from the beginning, with a sense of disappointment and fear that never lets up. This is a skill Jee-woon has honed like a sword, wielding it with perfection throughout the film, giving no sign of hope: only pockets of terror and moments of doubt in your mental health. Only by the end do you understand the magnitude of the tragedy that caused all this upheaval.

Is she shooting daggers at me? Is she?
It’s also claustrophobic, as the majority of the film takes place in one house. It lends to the feeling of being unable to escape the Big Bad you know is coming, and heightens the tensions within the family. Mix in new step-mommy who hasn’t let your mom’s side of the bed get cold yet and hormonal teens, and you have the perfect recipe for a what-the-hell experience.

The film does design right, with a mixture of Western (some of the set pieces, the girls’ clothing) and Eastern (most notably the parents’ bedroom and the stepmother’s clothes) elements at play. It’s almost like you’re moving through the mental states of the characters involved in the film, which is a layer that is welcome. The music and coloring of the film - supernatural scenes are mainly shot with the blue tint that was made famous by the remake of The Ring - is superb, using classical-esque pieces to underscore the taut dynamics in the family.

Seriously? She's right there. Like, right there.
A Tale of Two Sisters is an old favorite of mine. I can’t resist a horror film that plays with family tensions and visits mental health, especially when done well. And if you’re anything like me (and I’m guessing you are), you’ll love this film.

Guest Honey Verdict: 4.5 dysfunctional homicidal families out of 5.

Evey is a writer of novels and screenplays in Los Angeles. She is currently getting ready to freelance for some fashion outlet websites, but horror is her great love. She also lived in Japan for several years as a child and got into J-Horror back in the day, so it runs through her veins. Get in touch with Evey via twitter @evemariehill