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Tartan Video presents
A Tale of Two Sisters (2004)

"As much as you hate it, I'm the only one in this world you can call Mother, got it?"
- Eun-Joo (Jung-Ah Yum)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: March 29, 2005

Stars: Su-Jeong Lim, Geun-Yeong Mun
Other Stars: Kap-Su Kim, Jung-Ah Yum
Director: Kim Jee-Woon

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some violence, disturbing images)
Run Time: 01h:49m:43s
Release Date: March 29, 2005
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+A+A+ A+

DVD Review

As a huge fan of the big Asian horror craze, I was very intrigued when I sat down to spin an import DVD copy of A Tale of Two Sisters nearly a year ago. After experiencing this wonderful entry, I had to read more about it. I jumped on any message boards I could find regarding the film and spent hours reading other fans' interpretations of what I had just seen. Any movie that has me interested enough to jump right on the computer like that is one heck of a movie.

A Tale of Two Sisters is the brainchild of writer/director Kim Jee-Woon, a Korean filmmaker with a very short filmography, but one heck of a potential. Jee-Woon has crafted an unforgettable, twisty horror tale that will have you shaking your head and shaking with horror at the same time. However, things are tied up very nicely for the most part, but this is a film that begs repeat viewings.

Sisters Su-Mi (Su-Jeong Lim) and Su-Yeon (Geun-Yeong Mun) have just arrived at their father's (Kap-Su Kim) lakeside house, seemingly for summer vacation. Upon arriving, the two girls frolic about, going down to the pier and revisiting their swing set. Once the girls actually enter the house, things change drastically when they realize their stepmother (Jung-Ah Yum) has been anxiously awaiting their arrival.

The sisters instantly clash with the stepmother, with Su-Mi taking more obvious offense to her presence. Soon, both Su-Mi and Su-Yeon begin hearing disturbing sounds, such as someone running around in the attic. Su-Mi also has particularly disturbing dreams, with one in particular, paralyzing her (and this reviewer, I might add) with terror. With the source of the house noises still a mystery, Su-Mi and her stepmother continue to clash, eventually resulting in a dredging of the past that proves even more terrifying.

I really can't discuss the plot any further, as going into A Tale of Two Sisters knowing little to nothing about the story is vital to your initial experience of it. This is a film that pulls no punches, yet remains incredibly mysterious throughout its running time.

This is a remarkable brisk story, and that's due to the overall pacing and its nicely spaced scares. I was shocked to discover, after my initial viewing, that it is almost two hours long—even with many scenes of one of the characters slinking about in dark rooms to discover the source of the strange noises. It's amazing, but these scenes do not slow things down.

A Tale of Two Sisters, like most horror films these days, Asian or otherwise, features a major plot twist that will simply floor the viewer. However, fight off the thought "this has been done before," because, while the shell of this reveal might seem cliché by now, what happens after the reveal is incredibly original. I absolutely didn't see the twist coming, and, to Kim Jee-Woon's credit, he jumps right into the story's last act, not allowing the viewer to analyze his twist right away. However, at the end, when the project as a whole can be analyzed and discussed, it becomes brutally obvious that things just wouldn't have been as effective or creepy if the story had gone in any other direction.

The performances here are simply stellar. The four main actors become their characters, with the two young women taking their overall ability to the next level in every scene they're in. Su-Jeong Lim does a fascinating job as Su-Mi, who is in practically every scene. Geun-yeong Mun's Su-Yeon is the most complex yet quiet character here, and Mun handles that balance in personality with ease. The girls' father, played wonderfully by Kap-Su Kim, is in the fewest scenes, but the importance of his role and effectiveness of his performance will shock you in the end. Jung-Ah Yum as the stepmother is a revelation. This terrifically beautiful actress seemingly comes out of nowhere to take the hapless time-honored role of the wicked stepmother into the 21st century. When she is on the screen it is impossible to look away, as her facial expressions have a life of their own.

A Tale of Two Sisters is a difficult film to review because it's nearly impossible to discuss the plot without fear of giving something away to those who have yet to see it. Still, even if you do know the twists and/or the big reveal before seeing it, this is a film that you will want to revisit over and over again. After two viewings, I'm still not sure I've understood all of the plot's nuances, but, hey, that just gives me an excuse to get creeped-out by it all over again.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This flawless anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer completely captures the unique, gothic look of this unforgettable film. Director Kim Jee-Woon's vision comes to life here in all of its dark, yet colorful glory. The color palette used to bring the house's unique décor to life is so vast that the wallpaper seemingly has a life of its own. Image detail is extremely sharp, and black levels, which are extremely important to the look of this film, leave nothing to be desired. There isn't any dirt, grain, or any blemishes either.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Koreanyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Koreanyes
DTSKoreanyes


Audio Transfer Review: Wow, not only does this have a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix, but Tartan has included an amazing DTS track as well. Both of these mixes are top-notch, and particularly effective when various mysterious noises are occurring in the house. The surrounds are utilized perfectly during these scenes, as the sound of something scurrying about in the attic becomes a "you are there" experience for the viewer. It's particularly effective since the sound travels from left to right and front to back across the soundfield according to where the "sound" is running in the film. The unforgettable score is seamlessly integrated into the overall mix, blending perfectly with the crystal clear dialogue. Excellent usage of bass adds just the right bit of punch to the major scares, causing me to jump out of my seat on many occasions.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
12 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1. Director, Director of Photography, Lighting Director 2. Director, Cast
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes Reel: Three minutes of funny flubs during the shooting of the film.
  2. Interviews: Seven separate interview segment with various participants in the making of A Tale of Two Sisters.
  3. Stills Gallery: Four minutes of still photos from the film.
  4. A Letter From Su-Yeon: Musical montage featuring still photos and on-set footage with narration by the Su-Yeon character.
  5. A Letter From Su-Mi: Musical montage featuring still photos and on-set footage with narration by the Su-Mi character.
Extras Review: Fans of A Tale of Two Sisters (of which there will be many once more people see it) will instantly fall in love with this two-disc set, mainly due to the extensive amount of quality extra features that are spread out among the discs. Disc 1 features two audio commentaries, one with director Kim Jee-Woon, the director of photography, and the lighting director. This track is extremely technical, but very informative and surprisingly easy to listen to. The second track also features Kim Jee-Woon, but this time has the cast along for the ride. This is easily the better of the two as the cast and director work brilliantly together to tell some wonderful stories about the making of the movie.

The only other features on Disc 1 is the original theatrical trailer for A Tale of Two Sisters and a "hidden feature" called A Letter From Su-Yeon, which features Geun-Yeong Mun reading about a past experience while we view on-set footage and still photos from the film.

Disc 2 houses the bulk of the extras, beginning with a collection of documentaries and featurettes entitled, Creating a Tale of Two Sisters. Here we have Behind the Scenes (24m:26s), a piece that collects comprehensive interviews with the film's cast and crew, as well as on-set footage of its filming. Production Design Featurette (12m:08s), focuses on an interview with art director Geun-Hyun Jo, but also features interviews with others that were behind the overall production design that yielded the film it's gothic look.

A Music Score Featurette (6m:10s) has footage of the recording and mixing of the score, as well as an interview with music director Byoung-Woo Lee. CGI Documentary Featurette (6m:01s) has DTI technicians discussing the use of CGI effects in the film, and the Creating the Poster Featurette (6m:07s) takes a look at the photo shoot for the film's unforgettable poster. This piece also features a wonderful interview with Hyoung-Geun O, the poster's photographer.

12 Deleted Scenes are some of the better cut sequences you'll see left out of any film, actually fleshing out the story a bit. The Outtakes Reel (3m:31s) has some funny clips, and the Stills Gallery (4m:28s) has some nice photos.

There is a separate section of Interviews, which begins with four interviews with each of the principal cast members, who discuss their characters in great detail. An Explanation By the Director features Kim Jee-Woon tackling the film's confusing plot lines and twists. He also offers up the Director's Thoughts on Horror, which is a great discussion, and a professional gives A Psychiatrist's Perspective on A Tale of Two Sisters. There's a "hidden feature" on Disc 2 also, which is nearly identical to theone on Disc 1. This one is called A Letter From Su-Mi, and features similar footage and a reading by Su-Jeong Lim.

Extras Grade: A+

 

Final Comments

International DVD giant Tartan Video's string of US releases has just begun, but this two-disc package of A Tale of Two Sisters is a huge step on the road to becoming a US DVD giant. Chock full of extras with stellar audio and video presentations make this an early front-runner for DVD of the year in my book.

 


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