Halloween Countdown, Day 6

Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

A lurid Korean fairy tale of sorts – replete with dreamy cottage and evil stepmother – Jee-woon Kim’s Tale of Two Sisters is saturated with bold colors and family troubles.

Kim would go on to direct the also outstanding, although entirely different, I Saw the Devil, but where Devil breathes masculinity, Tale of Two Sisters is a deep, murky, and intensely female horror.

A tight-lipped father returns home with his daughter after her prolonged hospital stay. Her sister has missed her; her stepmother has not. Or so it all would seem, although jealousy, dream sequences, ghosts, a nonlinear timeframe, and confused identity keep you from ever fully articulating what is going on. The film takes on an unreliable point of view, subverting expectations and keeping the audience off balance. But that’s just one of the reasons it works.

Tale masters the slow reveal, and the dinner party scene is a pivotal one for that reason. One of the great things about this picture is the fact that Tale always has something else up its sleeve. Or, under its table.

The director’s use of space, the composition of his frame, the set decoration, and the disturbing and constant anxiety he creates about what’s just beyond the edge of the frame wrings tensions and heightens chills. The composite effect disturbs more then it horrifies, but it stays with you either way.

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