Ji-woon Kim

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A Tale Of Two Sisters Review


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The true artifice of horror cinema is in the framing. Inventive framing is that which keeps the audience on their toes; that which can draw out the goose bumps; and that which can elicit the stifled gasps. If you keep the boundaries of the screen space taught and the monsters just beyond those borders, you can get away with a lot of deficiencies in the plot and actual story. Case in point: Kim Jee-Woon's A Tale of Two Sisters.

Kim's disorienting angles and wide, revealing pans generate much of the fright in this otherwise well-tread territory, which parades out some familiar Korean horror themes: haunted children; child bonds strong enough to challenge the finality of death; neurotic stepmothers with grim secrets behind their veils of domesticity; dangerously excessive femininity; big, haunted homes; and impotent, ineffectual fathers. Two teenage sisters, Im Su-Jeong (in a dramatically commanding performance) and the meek Mun Geun-Yeoung arrive at their father's opulent countryside home after a stint in some kind of psychiatric hospital. The stepmother (played with futile stoicism and unhinged anxiety by Yeom Jeong-Ah) tries to make the girls comfortable, despite the frequent confrontations with the petulant Im, who knows something dark is hidden in the woman's past, and just possibly within the house too. The truth of the family's relationship is far too tangled to be easily resolvable, and Kim finally resorts to a jumbled montage to re-address the final act, which ultimately raises more questions than it answers.

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