A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

tale of two sisters poster 2003 movie cast
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Strong movie that is worth multiple viewings

Tough to follow the first time through

Movie Info

Movie Name:  A Tale of Two Sisters

Studio:  B.O.M. Film

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  June 13, 2003

MPAA Rating:  R

tale of two sisters moon geun youn gim soo jung dock

Hanging out with my sister is the best!!!

Su-mi (Im Soo-jung) has come home to from a mental hospital to be reunited with her sister Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young) and her father (Kim Kap-soo).  Unfortunately, Su-mi also is forced to deal with her stepmother Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ah) who herself has mental problems.  As strange occurrences begin happening in the house, both Eun-joo and Su-mi begin to see things…are they going crazy or is there something in the house tied to the death of Su-yeon and Su-mi’s mother (Park Mi-hyun)?

Directed by Kim Jee-woon, A Tale of Two Sisters (장화, 홍련 or Janghwa, Hongryeon translated as Rose Flower, Red Lotus) is a South Korean horror thriller.  The film was released to positive reviews and was one of South Korean’s biggest films.

A Tale of Two Sisters constantly tops the “best of” in modern horror movie lists.  South Korean filmmaking seemed to be the next leap after Japanese horror was milked by the United States and while Japanese horror was extreme, it seemed like most South Korean horror films (like I Saw the Devil) pushed it even further.  A Tale of Two Sisters feels like a blend between the two extremes.  A ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.

tale of two sisters mother bed scene park mi hyun

No Mom…wrong movie. You’re looking for The Grudge or The Ring

I’m not going to say that the movie is easy to follow.  My first assumption when watching the movie was that Su-yeon was dead like in the film The Other (1972)…but constant references by Eun-joo to Su-yeon seemed to deflate that.  It is later revealed that Su-yeon is dead…and that the Eun-joo we have seen is a manifestation by Su-mi…but there is a real Su-yeon (who is a pretty hardcore person as revealed at the end).  This continuous twists plus the language barrier makes the movie both good and tough.  It is definitely worth a second watching.

The cast is strong.  The older sister played by Im Soo-jung holds her own against Yum Jung-ah who also has the tough role of playing someone playing her.  Kip Kap-soo’s odd behavior is explained by the ending, and Moon Geun-young’s more yielding and compliant role is also explained.

tale of two sisters stepmother yum jung ah im soo jung

Wait, what happened to my sister and what did you do?

The movie looks good and as mentioned before (due to the plot) is worth a second watching to capture the nuances in the acting and visuals.  Things make more sense the second time around, but there are great moments both times.  In particular, the scene with the mother on the bed is pretty terrifying (it always was a fear to look down and see something at the base of your bed).

The Tale of Two Sisters is a strong entry into the “Asian Horror” genre that has become popular.  I enjoy that the movie is challenging and is not a simple viewing.  In addition to the layers of the story, there is a strange fairy tale aspect to the movie with the wicked stepmother and sisters that are joined at the hip.  The movie’s success in South Korea led to a small theatrical release in the United States but of course ended up with an American remake.  The Uninvited was released in 2009 staring Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel as her sister.

Related Links:

The Uninvited (2009)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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