Tale of Two Sisters, A (UK - BD RB)
Marcus has never had sisters, but they look like creepy things to have around....
Su-Mi (Im Soo-jung) returns from her stay in a mental institution and attempts to readjust to her life at home with sister Su-Young (Moon Geun-young), Father (Kim Kap-su) and stepmother Eun-Joo (Yeom Jeong-ah).
The family begin to witness strange occurrences around the house, with horrific visions, eerie events and out right horrific situations, all of which hold the key to what has caused Su-Mi’s sadness and fear.
I’d heard loads about A Tale of Two Sisters but by some unexplainable chain of events I’d not seen it until venturing into this review. In fact I don’t even think I’d seen a trailer, which for me is just bizarre. I’d heard reports hyping its level of scares (and of course how it stands up next to The Ring), its effective use of creepy visuals and how good the twist in the tale of the two sisters was, so I was quite keen going in.
After watching it, I have to say that one of and probably the biggest element of what makes Two Sisters work so well is just how unafraid director’s Kim Ji-woon is when letting things play out slowly. Everything from a creaking door as it swings open to the more—quite literally—in your face visuals of the customary jet black straight haired, pale skinned, crooked limbs Korean girl as she approaches one of our sisters. It's all played out with grace and despite having long shots of the creepy stuff, which enable you study every single part of the make up effects, it never undermines the scares. Hell, if anything, it just makes them worse.
I also found all of the performances engrossing. The two sisters were fantastic and the girl who has a bit of an episode on the kitchen floor was as convincing as she was creepy. However, the real stand out for me was Eun-joo as the stepmother. Talk about mesmerising. Every nuisance of this performance was memorable, especially some of her physical movements as the story gets more and more entangled. She was a huge part of what makes this so captivating, especially in the second half of the movie and really deserves a place in the pantheon of great horror performances.
With all that said, I did find a lot of the storytelling quite incoherent. Of course a certain degree of this is intentional and in all honesty adds weight to the deeply unsettling insanity that’s happening within the walls of that family home, but I have to admit there were bits that I think I get but I’m not 100% sure the more I think about. Of course, I can’t really go too far into that as a lot of it revolves around the twist (or twists) towards the end of the movie, but all of this is probably something I’ll study more on very welcome repeat viewings.
After accepting that this is a 1080i/29.97 transfer as opposed to a 1080p/24 one, it has to be said that other than a grand old colour boost, this transfer is pretty lousy.
Besides the many instances of dirt, scratches and artefacts for all to see, Two Sisters doesn’t feel too far removed from standard definition. The entire image is soft and even though it’s fairly clean, it sometimes has the effect of watching the events through a window that needs a good wash.
Real HD detail levels are almost non-existent, except for some of the more extreme close ups and even then they are barely passable. There’s a bizarre wobble to the image before and after most of the scene cuts and absolutely nothing glows with that HD sheen the Blu-ray format is so good at, well other than a Su-Mi’s red dress in the opening scenes but that’s more down to the colour boosting than a good transfer.
After a while I got used to all of the let downs here and in all honesty it sort of adds to the non glossy atmosphere to a certain degree. It’s not the worst transfer I’ve ever seen, but it’s probably one of the laziest, with no real effort on show to improve the picture quality.
The sound department is really where Two Sisters ups it game. Rather than going for typical big horror soundtrack, Kim Ji-woon opts for small delicate piano and string pieces that just wrap you up in a blanket of fear. Slow, unwinding sound design fills the speakers and when the short, sharp loud noises come they always work.
A fine example of what works so well is the use of a wind sounding effects that creeps up on you in the rear speakers and as the tension rises it slowly comes over the top of you filling the front speakers. By the time the scare does come you are totally encapsulated in a perfect paring of sound and visuals.
Dialogue is also fairly well presented (though not on the level of a more modern horror) and all the creaks and drips and what ever other everyday noise that somehow feels like the worse sound ever within the walls of the two sisters family home were all placed well in allotted speakers, making me question if I too was about to get visited by some horrific visual.
'Creating a Tale of Two Sisters' (23:55 SD) would be a pretty satisfying making of, with interesting discussions, detailed accounts of making the movie and some scene specific highlights, if it didn’t look like a pirate video from the eighties. The quality here is a disaster, and as the only feature on the disc it’s not exactly doing the job of tempting someone to go for the upgrade.
A Tale of Two Sisters is a movie that goes for creeps rather than outright scares and because of this it manages to create one hell of an uncomfortable mood (its jumbled storytelling techniques helps that along as well). Sadly though the disc really isn’t up to much beyond its sound design, and even that is really only slightly above average compared to many a modern horror.
At the present time this title is an HMV exclusive, so you’re a bit limited on giving it a whirl before you buy it. Be warned, if you do decide to get it, it’s not only the movie that you’ll find a bit shocking.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 2nd November 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Korean, Doly TrueHD 5.1 Korean
Easter Egg: No
Director: Kim Ji-woon
Cast: Im Soo Jung, Moon Geun Young, Yeom Jeong-ah
Genre: Drama and Horror
Length: 114 minutes
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