Tale of Two Sisters

This psychological thriller really did boggle my mind. I was thinking and analyzing the events throughout the duration of the movie. I know that’s what is expected of a psychological thriller, to mess with your mind, but this one was hard for me. I basically had no idea what’s going on. I was thinking that there must be that twist, but I didn’t even have the slightest hint what it was.

As what the title proposes, this is a story about two sisters. It’s obvious that we expect a story about sisterhood. The two sisters, Su-mi and Su-yeon, seemed to be the best of sisters. They always care and protect each other, especially Su-mi to her younger sister Su-yeon. Their bond may be compared to the one between Ginger and Brigitte in Ginger Snaps. These two movies relay the importance of having a sister who’ll be there you until the end. It’s you two against the world. I myself have a sister, but I can’t say I share the same strong bond. I love my sister very much, but I think the 11-year gap is what’s stopping us from having that kind of bond.

Aside from starring two sisters, another common element in this movie is the evil stepmother. We see that everywhere. We see too much of it that the society already tends to stereotype every stepmother as evil and wicked. This movie didn’t stray from that stereotype. It even took it a little too far. Eun-joo wasn’t just an evil stepmother, she seemed like a murderer. As it turns out, it really was just an exaggeration. It was all in Su-mi’s head. Since the incident, she has pictured her stepmother that way, and she has the reason to do so. Speaking of an evil stepmother, I wonder, why didn’t Eun-joo help Su-yeon? Did she really want her to die, or she just didn’t want to get involved? That moment when she stood at the balcony looking at Su-mi made me think that she wanted the accident to happen. But why? Then again, the stereotype of an evil stepmother comes to mind. She just wanted the father and wanted to get rid of the children.

Psychosis, like in most, if not all, psychological thrillers, is present. This is vital in this kind of movies because only this condition can create gravely unexplainable events that don’t seem to make sense at first.

I liked this movie because it had ghosts every now and then, although it would’ve been better if they put the ghosts in more scenes. I’ve always been a fan of those weird-looking, longhaired, creepy ghosts.

Given that I was in limbo the whole film, the ending was a relief, but at the same time, a very shocking revelation, although it didn’t give me that much needed information. There were still some blanks that needed to be filled.

 

A Tale of Two Sisters

It has been a very long time that I have wanted to watch A Tale of Two Sisters because of two things. First, the film was directed by Kim Ji-Woon who I regard highly after watching I Saw the Devil. Second and more importantly, I have heard a lot of good things about the film. Critics have generally given the film favorable reviews, Fr. Nick has put the film in a good light, and some of my friends have awarded the film with two thumbs up. After viewing the film in class, I have to say that I was not disappointed. In fact, it was way better than what I expected. A Tale of Two Sisters is another one of the many gems to come out of South Korea, my favorite Asian country when it comes to films.

The most striking thing that I liked about the film was its uncanny semblance to David Lynch’s style of film-making. If you look at David Lynch’s films, he has the uncanny knack of shooting close-ups and obscure angles in order to create a dreamy and bizarre effect. In A Tale of Two Sisters, the same cinematography technique was utilized which was complimentary to the atmosphere of the film. Even though the number of scenes with supernatural beings was few and far between, the cinematography kept the eerie mood intact.

Aside from the cinematography, A Tale of Two Sisters was also able to differentiate itself from a regular horror film by having an unusual plot sequence involving dreams and past-present time shifts. With this, information was kept restricted, only allowing a slow discharge of pertinent information to flow out per scene. The scenes that would have lessened the mystery of the film was spliced out and only shown at the end of the film. As such, A Tale of Two Sisters also works well as a mystery film.

If you take out all the supernatural beings, the film suddenly turns into a melodramatic tragedy. It becomes a story about Su-mi and how she lost her mother, her sibling, and her life. Through all the plot twists, we are invited to experience Su-mi’s imminent psychological breakdown. The most heartbreaking scene was the ending scene wherein she was so proud that she was finally able to stand up against Eun-joo. She did not know that her ignorance would lead to the death of her sibling, Su-yeon. Since then, in her hallucinations, Su-mi would always tell Su-yeon to shout so that Su-mi could rescue her. Everytime that Su-yeon was unable to shout for help, Su-mi would go into a tantrum because her horrific past keeps coming back. The thought of the possibility of saving Su-yeon haunts Su-mi.

Amidst the plot jumps and twists of the film, its structure patterns the one discussed by Noel Carroll. Suddenly, ghosts start to show up without any reasonable explanation. We are then taken on a ride to explore the reason behind the emergence of the supernatural being and subsequently discover its origins. It is upon our discovery by the end of the film that we feel satisfied of the entire experience.

A Tale of Two Sisters

“WHAT. IS. THIS.” was my initial reaction while watching A Tale of Two Sisters. I wasn’t able to watch in class, so I downloaded a copy and watched it with a friend… at night. Man, that was such a big mistake. You see, I’d like to believe I don’t scare easily, being an avid watcher of horror films and all, but I have to admit, Su-mi and Su-yeon sure did a number on me. Paranoia struck me big time after watching it, and this made walking around Katipunan very nerve-wracking. Even the everyday sounds of the street made me jump. You see, I’m not a fan of movies like A Tale of Two Sisters. I hate movies that involve dead people who haunt houses; those movies make my imagination go wild.

Okay, maybe hate is too strong a word for A Tale of Two Sisters. The end of the movie was, after all, an “Oh, so that’s why,” moment for me. Somehow, I enjoyed the fact that the movie didn’t give away every detail. A Tale of Two Sisters made me think, and it made me think really hard. Truthfully speaking, I didn’t understand the story until it was explained in the end. And I guess that element, the way the movie baffled me, made me enjoy the movie somehow.

One of the things I liked about the movie, no matter how much it scared me, was how they told the story. It was interesting how different points of views were used, and how they shifted the point of view. And even though this constant shifting made the movie more confusing, somehow, it worked for me. It made me want to watch more intently, to pay closer attention to the details, just so I would be able to understand everything. In addition, it was interesting how it was hard to tell who was the crazy one in the story or if they were all crazy in some way. I liked how in the first few scenes of the movie, Su-mi was portrayed as some sort of hero – protective over her little sister, always having something to say against the stepmother, never afraid to talk back to her – only to find out that she was actually mentally ill and was just imagining things.

Now, judging by the paranoia I felt after watching the movie, I would have to say that A Tale of Two Sisters is a very effective horror movie. It was both visually and mentally stimulating. It may have started out very confusing, but it all made sense in the end.

Tale of Two Sisters

Asian horror films always leave a different effect on its viewers, especially on me. I’m quite sure that majority of the class was ecstatic to finally watch an Asian film in horror film class. These films’ uncanny ability to portray horror in a unique way leaves one to think about the movie even days after watching it. It makes one think even during the movie as they place their scenes not in chronological error, thus puzzling the viewer on what really is going on in the story. The way they arrange critical events of the movie is unusual, but at the end of it all, you get it anyway. And you become more terrified because the true terrifying elements of the movie expose themselves before your very eyes.

This was precisely the case of this movie about two sisters and the apparent horror they were facing amidst their wicked stepmother. It took me a while to grasp that fact that all along, Soo-yeon had been dead, leaving her sister Soo-mi to deal with the tragedy of their family’s odd setup and that she was not mentally healthy. The way the movie played out made it seem that the Eun-joo, the stepmother, has been physically torturing the children when in fact, it had been Soo-mi who had been inflicting pain on herself all along. As it turns out, all the abuses that Soo-mi had blamed on her stepmother were all just figments brought about by her mental disorder, which she acquired most likely because of guilt that she felt after failing to save her sister when she had the chance to.

Soo-yeon’s character, although appeared very briefly, appealed to me the most. Her helplessness and confusion drew me to the movie. She was a ghost in the movie, technically speaking, but was able to elicit feelings of sympathy towards her instead of fright. She was one with me as I tried to figure out what was really going on in the movie, who was really the victim and who was it to fear.

Psychological thrillers like this movie shows the significant power of the mind. It can manipulate so many things and can redesign a person’s reality in such a way that it becomes detrimental to them. The power of the mind is also exercised in watching films like “The Tale of Two Sisters”. It makes one go into deeper analysis of every event and detail in the story. It keeps one more alert to look for relevant clues that will lead to a better understanding of the characters and what they were going through.

Again, here we see a direct application of what Noel Carrol was explaining in “Why Horror”. The more perplexed we are about the film, its characters, monsters and tragedies, the more we become engrossed it. Ironically, it is not a turn off to not understand what is going on. It makes a viewer want to know more, keeping them glued to their seats. We like staying with the movie’s monsters as terrifying as they can be, or as horrible as the characters’ situations get, because we want to learn more about them, to know more about them, and although impossible, to help them.

That, plus the fact that “The Tale of Two Sisters” was an ASIAN horror film must have been why I was so engrossed with the movie. Of course, it would not be an asian horror film as the movie ended with the signature scene of an odd, deformed monster creeping creeping out in a grotesque way. The movie really did not disappoint.

 

Session 9

There is something about psychological horror films that infects the viewers the same level of disturbance that the characters experience in the movie. The way Session 9 tells the story of a seemingly mentally disturbed man as revealed in the ending makes myself as a viewer feel the insanity that the movie projects to the audience. There were overlapping scenes of the recording that Mike was listening to, voiceovers of the flashback of Gordon and what was presently happening. The overlapping scenes may attribute to the confusion. It may have been deliberate not only to confuse the audience but also to look at the context of the scenes and its relation to one another. This style of delivery, however, leaves the viewer a bigger appetite to satisfy his curiosity. It sometimes never answers the questions and just leaves room for more questions.

This is especially true according to Noël Carroll’s Why Horror? where he says “the horror story is driven explicitly by curiosity.” The plot of Session 9 builds up the story in a way that it also builds up the mystery revolving around the mental institute. The sudden disappearance of Hank added to the list of unanswered questions. I have to admit that I was kind of getting impatient while watching the movie. The build up of the story was relatively slow and there were parts that were especially dragging. However, for some reason, I still find myself glued at the screen waiting for answers. This is natural as explained by Noël Carroll since as human beings, we innately have a desire to know, which gives light why we are compelled to watch horror films even though the very idea of it is repulsive. Some questions that bug me throughout the movie were 1.) Who is the ghost? 2.) Who is killing all the characters? and as the movie progresses 2.) Was there a ghost in the first place? Apparently there wasn’t. Similar to A Tale of Two Sisters, it was Gordon all along who ambushed Hank the night he came back at the hospital to collect the stash of old coins. It was because of his unstable mental condition like Mary’s that caused him to behave as such – or so I thought.

The twist at the end was related to my third question, “Who was Simon?” His voice was distinctly authentic and cannot be replicated by Mary’s voice. It was noticeably similar to the voice that spoke to Gordon at the beginning of the movie. When the revelation that the same alternative personality was haunting Mary and Gordon, it was no psychological condition after all. It was not blatantly revealed in the movie who Simon was but based on what he said, “I live in the weak and the wounded, Doc.”, I wish I never got to the point knowing who he was. It’s the kind of revelation that the viewer infers and this particular interpretation leaves the audience such as myself with chills running down my spine. Session 9 is more than a psychological thriller. It is one of the more frightening horror movies that is terrifying at its surface and even more so at its core.

Janghwa, Hongryeon

When I got older I realized classic tales were so creepy, there was always something terrible like a bad wolf or a bad stepmother, and this movie made me think about a tale all the time. In fact, it is inspired by a Korean folktale, but also reminds me of a Western tale. The aesthetic looks like a mix of Asian and Western style what makes it more disturbing, the house or the dolls, for example, looked so Western and I suddenly thought about the ‘obsession’ with whiteness I found when I arrived here.

The story is about a little girl with a mental disorder unable to assume the tragic death of her mother and sister and the life with her stepmom, while she makes herself responsible focusing her paranoia on this woman. On the other hand, she does not know how to deal with her sexuality and her ‘becoming a woman’ process, while she also fights with her stepmother since she is scared about the idea of his father ‘belonging’ to other woman.

In addition, the movie looks like a review of the childhood tale idea. I related it to Snow White since red and white had a lot of weight creating a familiar aesthetic, but also when the little girl get choked on with a red fruit (the aunt get choked on later too). In the film the male characters are not strong, laying the importance on women. The colors and tones are so beautiful but they also disturbed me a little (as unreal as in Snow White).

At the beginning, I did not know what to think about any of them but later I assumed Su-Mi’s gaze. But there was a moment, when the stepmother was looking at herself in the mirror, when I saw Su-Mi in one side, it was a big trail I did not follow because I did not have faith on what I saw! My gaze was leaded and confused by the storie and I thought badly about the stepmother.

Moreover, like in Poltergeist, TV is related to an evil-supernatural existence but also to a lack of communication. On the other hand, the haunted house is showed, like in Poltergeist or Pyscho, like an evil thing itself.

In another vain, I would say that the film critiques the way Psychiatry, tales, TV and cinema have deal with women and how this idea/ls have been shown to children. Su-Mi is crazy, the stepmother is shown by Su-Mi’s eyes like a hysteric (but ‘physically perfect’), the mother get suicide, the sister died creepily and the aunt (in Su-Mi’s mind) is treat like having an hysteria attack while she is just chocked on. So, the Otherness is represented by women and childhood: First on the stepmother and later on Su-Mis character, but also in the feminine-looking being under the skink,etc. Related to the idea of children and women like Otherness but also like victims there is a very clear fetishization of feet.

Since the classical stories are manicheist, this film explores in the idea of breaking the ways of seeing, free from preconceived ideas.

A Tale of Two Sisters

The thought of finally watching an Asian horror thriller truly excited me. The moment I heard of this, I was immediately reminded of all my favorite Asian horror flicks that I have grown to love over the years. At that moment, I thought to myself how this would probably be the first time that I would be watching a film in class where I would conveniently place my hand right beside my face just to cover up, in case things get too scary for me. True enough, the film A Tale of Two Sisters was exactly what I thought to be.

Among all the things that that I found interesting about this film, one thing that stood out for me was the character development. To me, I found that every single character in the film played a crucial role in the story. Likewise, all actors played out their roles perfectly which then added more depth to the characters as well. Take for example Eun-joo, the sisters’ stepmother. Eun-joo, as the stepmother is the supposed hated character of the film. She portrays that typical wicked stepmother stereotype that we have who is of course, meant to be hated by the audience.  However, despite the distasteful demeanor that she presented, I somehow felt sorry for her since the beginning. It was just something about her character that was in a way comical and pitiful at the same time. Each scene that she was present in kept me questioning whether or not she was really the villain or as robin wood would call, the monster of the film. True enough; the twist in the end gave justice to my emotions towards her character. The twist in the end simply made her character more dramatic and consequently and interesting one form me. Other than her, there is also the character of the father, Bae Moo-hyeon, who seems to be the quiet and disgruntled member of the family. At first glance, he appears to be the character that doesn’t play a significant role in the story. Nevertheless, his quiet and discreet nature is actually all part of adding more significance to his character. Thinking about it now, I see the father as the backbone on the family despite the passive character that he portrays. Lastly, there are the two peculiar characters of the sisters who are both the main characters of the film. As for these two characters, my first impression of them was how odd and anti-social they were from the start of the film, all the way to the end. Their relationship to me was also quite strange because it almost seemed as though they were a couple rather than two close siblings. That aside, it was nice to see a twist on how the seemingly strong woman (Bae Soo-mi) is actually the weak one in the end. She tries to show everyone that she is the strong person who is ready to protect her sister by all means possible. However, the twist reveals that Soo-mi is actually the weak one who is actually the one in need of protection.

If I were to compare this film to the remake, I would say that I would say that the original was able to iron out the kinks that the original left behind. To me, the Uninvited was able to deliver a more cohesive storyline that tie up everything better at the end. Although both films have very similar storylines, the Uninvited was able to make more sense out of the things that happened. It gives off that ending that has more impact rather than the original. (The uninvited even gives a role to the people she met in the mental institution, while the original simply skimmed through the part of her being in the mental hospital.) In the end, I’d still say that the Tale of Two Sisters satisfied my craving for that Asian horror films. All the ghosts, creepy sound effects, eerie music and the like were nice to have after a series of western horror films. All the things that I was expecting to see was all in this film, which is why I felt that this movie truly did not disappoint.