A Tale of Two Sisters (Janghwa, Hongryeon) (2003)

Every family has its dark secrets.
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A Tale of Two Sisters - Fairytales have never been this Grimm

A Tale of Two Sisters (or Janghwa, Hongryeon which translates as Rose Flower, Red Lotus) is a South Korean chiller which, although typical of a lot of supernatural Korean horror, is a superbly crafted story with an almost fairytale-like undertone and a disturbing and unexpected twist . Directed by Ji-Woon Kim (who's only other notable horror that I know of is Memories from The Three Extremes 2), A Tale of Two Sisters is based on a folktale which has already been adapted for the big screen a number of times and is soon to be remade for the Hollywood audience in 2009.

The movie begins in a psychiatric hospital where teenager Su-Mi is recovering from some shock and psychosis due to a family related trauma. She is allowed to return home with her father and sister, Su-Yeon, to the family home where stepmother Eun-joo is apathetically awaiting their return. Trying to do the familyish thing Eun-joo forces fervour for her step-daughters' return but the false enthusiasm is countered with a typical teenage lack of enthusiasm (as all fairytale stepmothers should expect).

It soon becomes obvious that this is not a happy family home, father is a broken man, stepmother begrudges the sisters presence although the bond between Su-Mi and Su-Yeon is strong and united is their abhorrence for Eun-joo. Su-Mi is the confident one of the two sisters whereas Su-Yeon is more fragile and susceptible to her stepmothers bullying. The troubled sisters' psychological state soon comes into question as they are visited by the typical pale-faced black-haired apparition which seems to be a common theme in Asian horror.

To try and ease the situation the sisters' father organises what turns out to be a tense and awkward family meal, where Eun-joo's overtly joyous behaviour (possibly too much wine) and the two sisters reluctance to even pretend to be happy to see their uncle sends their uncles wife into a convulsive fit. As she bounces about on the floor she is incapable of telling the others about what is lurking under the cupboards.

Tensions rise in the household and the bizarre happenings become more frequent and increasingly absurd cumulating in attempted murder and an immense realisation for Su-Mi as she discovers who is really in the house causing the misery amongst the family members.

Hopefully the twist in this story still remains a mystery if you haven't seen this movie, it is definitely worth seeing as it is the kind of twist which enables you to watch the movie again with a totally different perspective and comprehend all of the strangeness that you didn't quite understand the first time. The character development is excellently executed (and acted) and the plot development keeps you interested throughout without blatantly giving away the true happenings. A Tale of Two Sisters is a defining Korean horror movie with an enthralling story and leaves you with a thought provoking look into family life and mental instability.
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