Tale of Two Sisters, A

Director: Kim Ji-woon

2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo EX. 115 min.

Perhaps the most visually striking of recent Asian horror movies, director Kim Ji-woon’s moody chiller begins with the young titular sisters brought to live with a high-strung, resentful stepmother and their distracted father in an opulent lakeside mansion cluttered with antiques, deep-green wallpaper, and mysterious closets. The question of who is haunting the house quickly becomes secondary to determining which of the four protagonists is certifiably mad, who will get sloppily murdered, and who is already a ghost. In essence, A Tale of Two Sisters is a classic Victorian gothic tale in the mould of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, and indeed it often recalls Jack Clayton’s inspired 1961 film adaptation of that story, The Innocents. Making excellent use of all the familiar elements—creepy kids, the wicked stepmother, the old dark house, the unspoken presence—Kim slowly peels away the layers of mystery while at the same time weaving a complex, knotted narrative web that poses as many questions as it answers.

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